AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) celebrated the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday on January 18 participating in MLK parades and hosting free HIV awareness and testing events in almost a dozen U.S. cities across the country, including Los Angeles, CA; Ft. Lauderdale, FL; Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Baton Rouge, LA; Cleveland, OH; Biloxi, MS; Jackson, MS; Columbia, SC; Dallas, TX; and Ft. Worth, TX.
As African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS in the United States, AHF advocates and its MLK parade contingents will continue to promote the message that “AIDS Is A Civil Rights Issue” and that access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be a universal human right.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (), African Americans account for 44% of all people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, yet only account for 12% of the population. Latinos account for 21% of all new HIV infections nationwide, yet only represent 16% of the U.S. population.
“One of the most enduring legacies of Martin Luther King Jr. is the way he encouraged everyday citizens to take a stand in their communities for social justice and equal access to jobs, economic opportunity, housing and health care,” said Christopher Johnson, chair of the AHF Black AIDS Crisis Taskforce (ABACT).
“Despite the strides we’ve made in many important socioeconomic areas, statistics show that HIV/AIDS is ravaging black and brown families from coast to coast today, especially in the Southeast where stigma and lack of access to care remain major factors to overcome. From the streets of Atlanta to the halls of Congress, we must keep pressure on our local, state and national elected leaders to direct needed funding and resources to those who are on the frontlines in the fight against HIV/AIDS in the communities of color.”
Disproportionately high numbers of HIV/AIDs cases among communities of color may be caused by several factors, including:
• Lack of access to clinics for care and HIV testing, as well as to condoms and safer sex educational opportunities.
• High levels of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in these communities prevent people from learning their HIV status, or from seeking care and speaking honestly with their sexual partners if they know they are positive.
• Both society and the healthcare industry have marginalized members of these communities both on account of sexual orientation and race, blocking essential treatment, care, and education for those who need it.
Making its grand debut on MLK Day and kicking off a tour of stops at commemorative Black History Month events in California, Texas, and Georgia, AHF also unveiled its new converted open-air bus wrapped with the “AIDS Is A Civil Rights Issue” artwork featuring an archival image of Martin Luther King Jr. leading a march of sign-wielding civil rights activists during the 1960s Civil Rights Movement.
AHF launched its “AIDS Is A Civil Rights Issue” billboard and public awareness campaign in February 2014 to coincide with the 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964 and held a year of town hall discussions in eight U.S. cities that were headlined by Rev. Al Sharpton. In August, AHF held its “Vote 2 End HIV” concert featuring Rev. Sharpton, Patti LaBelle and rapper Common at the FOX Theatre in Atlanta to commemorate the 50th anniversary of President Lyndon Johnson signing the Voting Rights Act of 1965 and draw attention to health disparities that continue to affect communities of color.
For more information on the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, please visit www.aidshealth.org, find them on Facebook: www.facebook.com/aidshealth and follow us on Twitter: @aidshealthcare and Instagram: @aidshealthcare