Youths from throughout the city of Chicago participated in an event Sept. 29 sponsored by the Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus ( CBGMC ) . The event was designed to highlight the spread of HIV/AIDS among Black gay and bisexual men and to showcase the talents of various youths who, through their art, address the spread of the disease in their community. Dubbed the "Art of Protection," the event featured local spoken-word artists and a speed dating session for those in attendance.
Stephen Armstead, chair of CBGMC's youth committee, told Windy City Times that it isn't enough "to just pass out condoms" in an effort to prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS. "We need to let our youth express themselves because this epidemic is hitting them hard. They need to express their fight against HIV," he added.
Wanda Ozier, a case manager for Taskforce Prevention and Community Services, said the event was designed to bring youths together so that they could speak about the spread of HIV/AIDS and so that the stigma surrounding the disease can be lifted. "It makes [ knowledge of HIV ] common and it should be common," she noted.
Craig Johnson of Rush University Medical Center told Windy City Times that his presence at the event was to lend support and to highlight the importance of clinical trials: "I intend to be present across Chicago at events like this. A lot of people don't participate in clinical trials because they've never been asked." Johnson said Rush is presently recruiting for three clinical trials and stressed the importance of having Blacks participate in those trials.
Tony Jones, a youth who attended the event, said gatherings like the "Art of Protection" are important "because we need alternatives to the negative pitfalls [ we face ] ."