Howard Brown Health's Feb. 6 National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day eventheld at Sikia Restaurant in the Englewood neighborhood on Chicago's South Sidewas both a purposeful examination of the crisis facing the Black HIV/AIDS population and a celebration of the people on the front lines of the battle on behalf of a community that, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention ( CDC ), account for "45 percent of HIV diagnoses."
With light-hearted and enthusiastic moderation by Howard Brown Health Linkage to Care Specialist Erica Avant, a panel composed of Howard Brown Health Medical Director Dr. Maya Green, community activist Keith Green, West Point Missionary Baptist Church Pastor Bernard Jakes and Trinity Church of Christ HIV/AIDS Ministry head Rodney Johnson addressed an audience that filled the restaurant to capacity along with a waiting list of people that stretched toward the exit even as the event started.
Jakes took a few moments with Windy City Times to address the lack of participation and engagement in the HIV/AIDS on the part of Black churches.
"When you take a look historically at the Black church, it's dealt with soteriologythat when you leave this world there's a better place if you can just hold on," he said. "That's fine but there's been little or no talk about what you can do to live healthy while you are down here. The aspects of health have been absent, whether mental or physical. "
Green echoed those sentiments with a desire to see greater community awareness of HIV/AIDS.
"In the United States, one out of every 300 people will be diagnosed or living with HIV," she told Windy City Times. "In communities like Englewood, the number is one-out-of-one hundred and that's three times the national average."
"There are numerous factors that come into play," Green added. "All interventions that help populations generally are created and mobilized out of the population targeted. We need to have an open discussion about what HIV is and isn't, we can do some stigma reduction and have a call-to-action that will be the beginning of stamping out HIV in communities like Englewood."
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