Elders to Speak at World AIDS Day Event


Former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders will speak at a Jackson World AIDS Day event this evening.

Jackson AIDS activist Robin Webb told the Jackson Free Press last month that AIDS disproportionately affects the South, African Americans and men. In Mississippi, Webb said, approximately 9,000 people are currently living with the disease, yet fewer than half receive any treatment. Some don't even know they're infected. Some never get tested because of fear—they're afraid of the diagnosis or afraid of anyone finding out they're infected. Others simply can't afford the therapy or can't travel to get to a doctor.

Since 1996, the World AIDS Day Campaign has worked to raise public awareness on the issues surrounding the disease, including fighting the stigma and discrimination that prevents people from fully understanding and stopping its spread. The 2009 campaign is focusing on universal access and human rights.

"World AIDS Day is about raising money, increasing awareness, fighting prejudice and improving education," states AVERT, an international AIDS charity, on its Web site. "World AIDS Day is important in reminding people that HIV has not gone away, and that there are many things still to be done."

Tonight at 6 p.m., former Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders will speak at a special service held at Anderson United Methodist Church (6205 Hanging Moss Road), and the Mississippi Mass Choir will perform.

"The service itself will remember those who have died of AIDS, affirm those living with HIV, call for community action, and bless those who provide care and services to HIV persons, including clergy and churches," Webb said in a statement.

For more information on tonight's event, call 601-713-3999 or the Mississippi Department of Health at 601-576-7400.

Tomorrow, Dec. 2 at 7 p.m., Webb's organization, A Brave New Day, is hosting a film screening of "Sex Positive," an award-winning documentary about how safe sex began. Author and activist Richard Berkowitz will be on hand for a Q&A after the film. The event is free, and will be held at The Artery of Fondren (3220 N. State St.). Call 601-713-3999 for more info.

AIDS statistics are mind numbing. In the 28 years since scientists identified the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, the deadly bug that causes AIDS, the virus has killed 25 million worldwide; at the end of 2008, more than 33 million had been infected. More than 2 million died of AIDS in 2008 alone. Africa counts 14 million AIDS orphans.

In the U.S., more than a half-million men, women and children have died of AIDS, and twice that many are living with the disease today. Men account for 75 percent of AIDS patients, and African Americans are the single largest ethnic group affected, accounting for more than 44 percent of all AIDS patients alive in the U.S. today.


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