• What: National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
• When: 10 a.m. today at Chattanooga State Community College; 6 p.m. Thursday at Bessie Smith Hall
• Free confidential testing will be available at both locations
• Cost: Free
Jamar Rogers survived homelessness, prostitution, methamphetamine abuse and an HIV diagnosis.
Now the 31-year-old singer is encouraging others with HIV that they can also survive.
"There is life, if you're willing to believe in it and go on," Rogers said. "HIV is not the death sentence that it used to be."
Rogers, the second season semifinalist on the NBC reality television show, "The Voice," will be the main speaker at Chattanooga's National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Rogers, known for his rendition of singles such as "I Want to Know What Love Is" and "Seven Nation Army," will sing and speak at Chattanooga State at 10 a.m. today and at 6 p.m. Thursday at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.
His goal is to convince newly diagnosed HIV patients that life can go on after their diagnosis and to make policymakers more aware of the difficulty that some people with HIV/AIDS have in getting the care they need.
"The process of care is so difficult," he said. "Those who are battling drug addiction or homelessness just can't get care. What can we do to get more people into care. What does the Affordable Care Act mean for people with low or no income with HIV/AIDS?"
The key to surviving HIV is to get services and care as quickly as possible after diagnosis.
"Don't wait five or six years when you're really sick before trying to get help," he said.
The event's theme, "We Are the Ones We've Been Waiting For," is intended to encourage more blacks to get involved with HIV prevention and treatment in their communities, said Helen Adams, Minority AIDS Initiative Coordinator at the Tennessee Department of Health.
Dr. Shanell L. McGoy said it's extremely important that black men who have sex with men take more leadership roles in addressing HIV and AIDS because they know how to best reach that community.
Rogers was diagnosed with HIV as a result of drug addiction in 2006, but didn't start speaking out about HIV/AIDS until he appeared on "The Voice" in 2012.
During his silence, a friend he knew in New York committed suicide after learning he had HIV. Rogers said he wonders if he had been more forthcoming would his friend have felt as isolated. He said the man's death is a part of his motivation to be more vocal.
Contact staff writer Yolanda Putman at firstname.lastname@example.org or call 757-6431.