New AIDS Organization Aimed At Black College Students
In response to growing numbers of new HIV infections among Black college students, the Black AIDS Institute and the Magic Johnson Foundation have formed L.I.F.E. AIDS, (Leaders In the Fight to Eradicate AIDS), an effort aimed at educating and mobilizing Black college students to respond to the devastating effects of HIV/AIDS on Black communities.
“We are here to inspire people in our communities to take responsibility for their own actions and their own lives. We have the power; I think we just need to be inspired to use it. L.I.F.E. AIDS was created for this reason. We are the inspiration,” says Jonathan Perry, a student at Johnson C. Smith University in North Carolina.
Conceived at a national AIDS town hall meeting and teach-in sponsored by The Balm in Gilead, the Black AIDS Institute, the Magic Johnson Foundation, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS and Outreach Inc., and hosted by the Morehouse School of Medicine, L.I.F.E. AIDS is comprised of Black college student leaders from colleges and universities across the country. More than 100 students assembled in Atlanta to create the organization.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic is not over. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African Americans make up 12 percent of the U.S. population, and account for half of the new HIV cases reported in the United States. HIV/AIDS is devastating Black people in Africa and America — “We must act now to turn this epidemic of our time around,” Perry says.
Overall, it is estimated that half of all new HIV infections occur among teenagers and adults aged 25 years and younger. Black youth represent 65 percent of HIV/AIDS cases among American youth ages 13-19.
“AIDS in America is rapidly becoming a Black disease. Nowhere is that more apparent than among young African Americans,” explains Phill Wilson, executive director of the Black AIDS Institute. “L.I.F.E. AIDS speaks to the power of young people to change the world. Given the relentless toll AIDS is having on Black communities, it is critical that Black students are getting involved in efforts to stop the epidemic in our communities.”
Initial L.I.F.E. AIDS activities include publication of Ledge, the first national AIDS magazine written, edited and published by HBCU students. The editor of Ledge is Freddie Allen, a student at Howard University.
L.I.F.E. AIDS, in conjunction with National Black AIDS Awareness, sponsored a “Got AIDS?” T-Shirt campaign. The campaign is calling on students, faculty members, celebrities and other Black leaders to wear T-Shirts that ask the questions: “Got AIDS?” and “How do you know?” The purpose of the T-shirt campaign is to generate a discussion about the myths surrounding HIV/AIDS and to get students to understand their risk for infection.
For more information about L.I.F.E. AIDS, or to get copies of Ledge, call (877) 757-AIDS or e-mail LIFE@Blackaids.org.
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