Feb. 7 marks the 13th year of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. In support of the event community based nonprofit Williams and Associates will host a community roundtable discussion titled “Ending AIDS Among Black Gay Men.”
Featured in the discussion will be Jesse Milan Jr., chair emeritus of the Black AIDS Institute. Milan has lived with the disease for 30 years, and argues that even though care for the disease is easier to administer than ever before, it is still important to use a multifaceted approach in keeping the awareness of the disease relevant.
“There are 50,000 new infections of HIV in this country every year, and almost 50 percent of them are African Americans,” he says. “We still have to get the messages out for all generations, and in all sectors. We need to continue to get this message out all across the black community.”
Milan adds that the support he has had from his friends and family has been a key factor in his support to fight on behalf of the disease – and can help others as well.
“No one intentionally becomes HIV Positive. Embracing the fact that we have someone that we may love or know or live next door to or in our family who is HIV positive, you can help them live longer by embracing the fact that they are who they are, that they are where they are, and to help them live longer just as we do as with any other kind of disease or illness,” he says.
In the St. Louis region in 2011, blacks represent the highest percentage of persons living with HIV at 64 percent, and black men who have sex with men made up 55 percent of new diagnoses of HIV according to the Missouri Department of Health and Senior Services.
The discussion is free and open to the public, and will be held at the Regional Arts Commission at 6 p.m.