Harris-Stowe University is offering free HIV testing, education and entertainment on Saturday, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
The St. Louis Department of Health reports the HIV rate was nearly five times higher in St. Louis’ black community than in the white community in 2012. Increasing HIV testing can reduce the rate of HIV infection. On Saturday, Turn Up for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will offer free HIV testing, health screenings and performances.
Actress and activist Sheryl Lee Ralph will perform her one-woman show “Sometimes I Cry” about women infected or affected by HIV/AIDS.
“I came to this issue as a young woman on Broadway doing ‘Dreamgirls,’ and I tell you, it was very difficult for the little church girl in me to see my friends suffer and die in stigma, shame, silence of a mysterious disease that nobody wanted to talk about, and nobody wanted to do anything about it,” Ralph told “St. Louis on the Air” host Don Marsh on Tuesday. “I said we’ve got to figure out a way to help them. Then when it seemed like help wasn’t coming, I said we must figure out a way to remember them.”
Ralph’s performance will be followed by a Q-and-A session.
“A lot of people want to ignore the fact that sex is in everybody’s face all the time,” she said. “Look at the Super Bowl alone. The (ad) with the Kardashian woman there, that was like pure sex. You’ve got to talk about things like that with young people to help them make proper choices. Those things are always in their face, and then we don’t want to talk to them to make responsible choices in life.”
Ralph said people need to be responsible and educated. Testing for HIV and sexually transmitted diseases is part of that education, she said.
“Yes, you can have sex. You can also not have sex. If you’re going to have sex, have it responsibly. Condom use — make that a part of your life. If you’re a blessed person, you might have some good sex in your life, but it’s got to be done responsibly ’cause it can definitely shorten your life (and) affect the quality of your life.”
From start to finish, an HIV swab test takes only 20 minutes.
“That means you’re 20 minutes closer to having a better quality of life,” Ralph said.
In addition to the Turn Up event at Harris-Stowe, Myrtle Hilliard Davis Comprehensive Health Centers are offering free HIV testing on Friday.
Turn Up for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day
- When: 11 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 7, 2015; Sheryl Lee Ralph will perform at 1 p.m.
- Where: Main auditorium at the Henry Givens Building, Harris-Stowe State University, 3026 Laclede Ave., St. Louis
Free and confidential HIV testing
- When: 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Friday, Feb. 6, 2015
- Where: Myrtle Hilliard Davis main site, 5471 Dr. Martin Luther King Drive; Homer G. Phillips Hospital location, 2425 N. Whittier, St. Louis; and Florence Hill Health Center, 5541 Riverview Blvd., St. Louis.
“St. Louis on the Air” discusses issues and concerns facing the St. Louis area. The show is produced by Mary Edwards and Alex Heuer and hosted by veteran journalist Don Marsh. Follow us on Twitter: @STLonAir.