Thursday, June 26, 2008

African American Coalition Against AIDS Re-Launches AIDS Education and Awareness Website

(Washington, D.C.) – In advance of National HIV Testing Day, the African-American Coalition Against AIDS (AACAA) has launched to help combat the spread of HIV/AIDS and ramp up awareness of the risks faced by African-Americans.

"This marks an important moment in our ongoing effort to combat the spread of HIV/AIDS. Our hope is to expand the reach of our organization by taking advantage of the enormous power of the internet to educate all African Americans – a community that has been quietly experiencing escalating rates of HIV/AIDS infection," said Felicia Gordon, Senior Board Member of AACAA.

AACAA's programs and efforts are focused on the particular needs of the African-American community. Utilizing an aggressive Street Outreach Program, AACAA volunteers disseminate condoms and educational materials to targeted neighborhoods including public housing complexes, shopping centers, barbershops and hair salons.

AACAA recently reached a milestone by distributing 1 million condoms to residents in impacted neighborhoods throughout Washington, D.C., Baltimore, and New York City as part of their on-the-ground work. With the launch of their new website, AACAA hopes to reach an on-line audience to help further promote fact-based information about HIV/AIDS while encouraging African Americans to get tested and know their status.

"An estimated 1 in 20 residents in Washington, D.C. are now HIV positive. Overcoming the myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS is critical in the battle to stop the spread of this disease in the Black community," said Kristen Clarke, Founder and Executive Director of AACAA. Clarke observed that "through our grassroots outreach program and our new website, we hope to advance our efforts to encourage testing, promote the importance of prevention and distribute condoms and fact-based educational material to those most vulnerable to this epidemic."

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

The Harlem Shake

AACAA Board Members Dionne Fraser and Felicia Gordon handed out 5000 condoms on a balmy Saturday afternoon. Harlem is our usual destination for outreach (though our next outreach will be in Brooklyn in August). We began our outreach on 125th Street and Lennox Avenue, ground zero of Harlem. This intersection is well traveled and truly represents the future and past of Harlem, with a Starbucks to prove it. We discussed the ramifications of this epidemic with passers-by and music bootleggers. Many individuals were shy about taking condoms, which we found surprising but when we discussed statistics and not being shy about taking care of oneself, they often became emboldened.

The saddest moment came when a young man approached us and said "I wish you had been giving these out 15 months ago." When we asked why he said it was because he just had a daughter. He was 19 years old! We taken aback and the sadness and regret in his eyes won't be easy to forget. The black community remains vibrant and beautiful. This outreach was pure pleasure, despite the blazing heat. We only wish that we could reach more young people.

Monday, June 9, 2008

We Never Forget About our Brothers & Sisters Across the River

On Sunday June 8, 2008, AACAA MPH Student, Andrella Smith of Howard University, spent several hours representing the organization by conducting outreach to the Anacostia community in the Southeast section of Washington, DC. This outreach project was a big success in large part because the vast majority of residents reached were unaware how serious the HIV and AIDS epidemic is here in the District. Many expressed shock and outrage about the staggering rates of infection in the District while others simply refused to believe that as many as 1 in 20 persons in the District are HIV positive. The outreach project took place in the neighborhoods immediately surrounding the Anacostia Metro Station We fielded questions from and distributed free condoms to as many 150 people.

Many people believe that the organization is doing an excellent job for this community and expressed concerns about the need for more HIV and AIDS prevention-based projects in the area. Other were grateful for AACAA's work observing that too often people forget about he Anacostia community. Overall, Anacostia residents are eager to learn about the HIV and AIDS epidemic and how it is affecting the lives of both men and women, young and old of color.