NEW YORK - The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), in collaboration with theBlack Leadership Commission on AIDS of New York City and other national organizations and local leaders, is hosting a community meeting to elicit input and recommendations on the National HIV/AIDS Strategy. The groups aim to ensure that President Barack Obama's strategy adequately addresses the unmet prevention, treatment and care needs with the African-American community.
The meeting will be 6-8 p.m. on Sept. 28 at Riverside Church, 91 Claremont Ave., Room 9T, in Manhattan. After presentations by C. Virginia Fields, president and CEO of NBLCA, among others, the meeting will include a community dialogue and response in which the public can offer remarks about the Black community's needs in the battle against HIV/AIDS.
As part of his National HIV/AIDS Strategy released in July, President Obama mandated that Executive Branch departments and agencies with HIV/AIDS programs come up with an implementation plan for the strategy within 150 days (by Dec. 9). NBLCA along with other organizations is holding a series of town hall meetings across the country and is seeking participation in these meetings from clergy, health practitioners, persons living with HIV/AIDS, community-based organizations, direct service providers, community activists, policy makers and other concerned citizens. The meeting in New York is the second; the first was held Sept. 16 in Washington, D.C., and others will follow in Atlanta, Detroit, Jackson, MS., and Los Angeles.
The town hall meetings are being led by NBLCA, which has been a leader in calling attention to the disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on African Americans. HIV/AIDS affect African Americans more than any other demographic group, and the disparity is growing. Black Americans represent only about 12 percent of the U.S. population but accounted for almost half of new AIDS diagnoses in 2007, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) . Black Americans accounted for 57 percent of deaths due to HIV in 2006, and their survival time after an AIDS diagnosis is lower on average than it is for most other racial and ethnic groups. Black women accounted for about two-thirds of new AIDS cases among women in 2007, and their incidence rate is about 15 times that of White women, according to the CDC.
In New York City, HIV/AIDS is as big a problem as anywhere in the country. According to the New York City Department of Health and Mental Hygiene: "New York City remains the epicenter of HIV/AIDS in the U.S. More than 107,000 New Yorkers are living with HIV, but thousands more don't know they're infected. New York City's AIDS case rate is almost 3 times the U.S. average, and HIV is the 3rd leading cause of death for New York City residents aged 35 to 54."
New York's African-American leaders have been at the forefront of the battle against HIV and AIDS. NBLCA developed National Black Clergy for the Elimination of HIV/AIDS Act of 2009, the first legislation to address HIV/AIDS' impact on African Americans in a comprehensive way. The legislation has been introduced in the House by Rep. Charles Rangel (HR 1964) and in the Senate by Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (S 3011). Both are Democrats from New York.
NBLCA and its New York State affiliates also helped push through two laws to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS by updating New York's HIV testing law to encourage increased testing rates.
President Obama's AIDS strategy comes at a critical time, according to NBLCA Board Chairman Rev. Dr. Calvin O. Butts III, who is also a member of the Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS. "We as a nation recognized long ago that HIV and AIDS are at crisis levels in the Black community," Rev. Butts said. "This is the year that we must finally put into place policies that address the alarming numbers we have been seeing for decades."
The list of co-sponsors for the meetings continues to grow. So far it includes: National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., Black Leadership Commission of AIDS of NYC, Black AIDS Institute, Black Women's Health Imperative, National Coalition of 100 Black Women, National Action Network, National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Hayes-Cozier Health
Network, Black Men's Xchange-National, Coalition of Black Trade Unionists, National Association of Negro Business and Professional Women's Clubs, Inc., SisterLove, AIDS Service Center of New York City, Riverside Church Global HIV/AIDS Ministry, Conscious Contact of New York, Inc.,
United Church of Christ HIV/AIDS Network Inc., International Federation of Black Prides, Detroit Association of Black Organizations, National AIDS Education & Services for Minorities, Inc.,
Southern Christian Leadership Foundation, African American Initiatives & Professional
Education - Greater New York Market, American Diabetes Association, Fellowship Baptist Church (Staten Island, NY), Mentoring in Medicine, St. Luke's A.M.E. Church (New York, NY), 100 Black Men of New York City, Mt. Carmel A.M.E. Church (Brooklyn, NY), WISH-NY/Legal Action Center, National Black Alcoholism & Addictions Council, Clergy United for Community Empower-ment, Steinway Child and Family Services, Inc., and Multi-Cultural Addictions Network, Inc.