Black AIDS day raises awareness, questions

The focus of many Americans has shifted to the Iraqi elections and the Tsunami tragedy. But people across the world are still suffering in the AIDS epidemic.

Many people dedicated Monday to make sure the world has not forgotten.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness and Information Day aims to get blacks tested, educated and involved in HIV prevention activities.

According to, NBHAAD was established in 1999 when the Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s division of HIV/Prevention funded five national non-profit organizations, collectively known as the Community Capacity Building Coalition, to assist with bringing awareness to the disease. It was first observed on Feb. 23, 2001.

One group that decided to get involved in the fight against AIDS was Leaders in the Fight to Eradicate AIDS, a black student organization created to motivate black college students to make an impact against the disease on a national level.

Jonathan Perry, who is HIV positive, founded the organization. The Johnson C. Smith University student said the group was originated at a national AIDS Town Hall and Teach-in meeting.

L.I.F.E. AIDS, in conjunction with National Black AIDS Awareness Day, sponsored a “Got AIDS?” t-shirt campaign, which called on students, faculty members, celebrities and other black leaders to wear t-shirts sporting the logo.

Among other schools, students at Southern University and A&M College, Johnson C. Smith, Saint Michaels College and FAMU participated in the event. Other groups who helped with NBHAAD and L.I.F.E. AIDS were former sponsors of the original event when L.I.F.E. AIDS was founded.

Members who are involved in L.I.F.E. AIDS said they believe the t-shirts are a good way to promote the epidemic behind the facts.

“T-shirts are just an example of the creativity for promoting awareness of AIDS,” said Gregg Bishop, a senior business administration student from Brooklyn.

Bishop explained how serious this epidemic is.

“You could be sitting in class in (the General Classroom facility)…based on stats, 4 or 5 (students) could be infected and they don’t know… that’s what’s crazy,” Bishop said.

Students at FAMU admitted while they did not know about the event, they thought it made a difference.

“They’re trying to get everybody to know AIDS is a problem and everybody should get tested,” said Andromeda Raheem, a 19-year-old pharmacy student from Tampa.

Students expressed their thoughts when they saw people wearing the “Got AIDS?” shirts on campus.

“At least they’re trying to make a point to at least get checked out, and at least not be in that situation,” said Erice Hall, a 19-year-old freshman from Baltimore.

According to the 2005 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day fact sheet, in 2002, HIV was the leading cause of death for blacks in the U.S. between the ages of 25-44.

Blacks made up 49 percent of 2001 AIDS cases, but only comprised 12 percent of the U.S. population.

In 2002, blacks accounted for 49 percent of reported AIDS cases among adults and adolescents. In 2002, blacks accounted for more than half of the estimated new HIV infections in the United States.

Contact Royce Wynn at