Event marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

Event marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

February 8th, 2012 by Yolanda Putman in News

Cynthia Rodgers speaks at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center for National Black HIV Aids Awareness Day. The event was sponsored by the Southeast Tennessee Council for HIV/AIDS Care & Prevention.

Photo by Jake Daniels/Times Free Press.

HIV doesn't just target people in poverty, gay people or promiscuous people. It can happen to anybody, said Cynthia Rodgers, a HIV/AIDS advocate and author from Birmingham, Ala.

"And anybody can triumph in spite of a positive diagnosis," she said.

She was the speaker for the Southeast Tennessee Council for HIV/AIDS Care & Prevention National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The theme of the event is "Changing the Course of HIV/AIDS One Black Life at a Time!"

The national event began in 2000 to help alleviate the spread of HIV/AIDS in the black community. Nationally almost 20,000 blacks a year are diagnosed as HIV positive, according to National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day website.

Blacks account for about 20 percent of the population in Hamilton County, according to the U.S. census, but they account for almost half the people diagnosed with HIV in 2009.

Of the 1,425 people diagnosed with HIV in 2009, 671 were black, according to the latest statistics from the Chattanooga-Hamilton County Health Department.

The event is held to encourage people to get information, get tested and if they test positive, get treatment, said Cathy Mcelvain, a nurse at the Health Department.

Chattanooga Cares provided free testing at the event, and those tested could learn their results within 20 minutes, officials said.

Chattanooga Cares and the Chattanooga Hamilton County Health Department regularly provide free testing.

No blood and no needles are involved in testing, officials said.

"Our desire is to educate and enlighten about HIV, but also to inspire," said Rodgers, who was diagnosed HIV positive more than 10 years ago.

"I love the word inspire," said Rodgers. "It makes me think I can breathe again and breathe well. That's what's so exciting."

Eleven years ago there were certain medications for HIV/AIDS that hadn't even been developed yet, but people have access to them now, she said.