|Poet Essex Hemphill, at right, with filmmaker Marlon Riggs|
I want to start
to save my life.
If Whales, snails,
Chrysler, and Nixon
can be saved,
the lives of Black men
and can be saved.
We should be able
to save each other.
(from “For My Own Protection”
by Essex Hemphill, 1957-1995)
The cities where I live and work (Plainfield and Newark, respectively) are among the top ten cities with the highest number of HIV/AIDS infections in the state of New Jersey. At Essex County College, we are once again devoting this entire week to HIV/AIDS awareness and education—the Humanities Division (where I teach), the Urban Issues Institute, Student Life and Activities, Liberation in Truth Social Justice Center, and Rutgers-Newark RU Pride, have all come together to provide wide-ranging programming, with HIV testing continuing through tomorrow (Friday, 12/2) as our World AIDS Week Agenda.
Here are the newest statistics on HIV/AIDS for Plainfield from the state’s IMPACT (Intensive Mobilization to Promote AIDS Awareness through Community-based Technologies) Initiative (as of December 31, 2010). The IMPACT Initiative is “… a city-by-city community mobilization initiative designed to galvanize and support African American leaders to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in cities with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS.” (from the NJDHSS web site)
In addition, New Jersey continues to have one of the highest percentages of women who are infected with the disease. More community-based efforts (such as those at the Plainfield Community Health Center on Myrtle Avenue) are needed to overcome the current barriers to HIV prevention and treatment. This requires that we all acknowledge the severity of the continuing epidemic, especially among those without adequate access to health care.
The theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is “Getting to Zero,” and focuses on several targets: Zero new HIV infections, Zero HIV/AIDS-related discrimination, Zero AIDS-related deaths, and Zero barriers to HIV prevention and treatment services, while providing an opportunity to focus local, national, and worldwide attention on the impact of HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS continues to disproportionately affect the African American community in particular, which represents 54% of those diagnosed with the disease. As Bernice Paglia noted in her blog post on World AIDS Day, the emphasis this year is on testing—the Testing Makes Us Stronger campaign highlights the need for testing among African American men, but African Americans in general have less access to adequate health care, get tested less often, and when they do, it is often years after they have been infected.
We all have lost family and friends to AIDS—use this day to talk about someone who died of AIDS.