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A Call to Action

A Call to Action


I recently attended a weekend retreat sponsored by the Black AIDS Institute. The purpose of the retreat was to get black gay professional men involved in efforts to fight HIV. AIDS activists and researchers have been meeting for decades to find ways to fight the HIV epidemic, but this new meeting marked the first time that black gay AIDS activists and researchers joined forces with black gay leaders who are not directly involved in AIDS policy. Much to the organizers' surprise, I think, the weekend was an amazing success. Not only did each man make a personal commitment, but the group as a whole made a commitment to support each other. At the end of the weekend the group issued a call to action to other black gay men and all black Americans. I think the statement is important and something we all should see. I've decided to use my column this month to share it with you. Forty-one black gay leaders from across the nation signed the statement. My wish is that other at-risk populations'other gay men of color, young people, and women'do the same. A Black Gay Men's Call to Action to the Black Community More than two decades have passed since the HIV/AIDS pandemic emerged. Despite advancements in other communities, the virus's progression among black people continues to quicken. As a group of professional black gay men, we call on our community to join us in the fight to rid our community of this devastating disease. We come together from all walks of life to search for and implement solutions. We are elected officials and public servants. We are leaders in the world of music. We are businessmen, lawyers, artists, entertainment and media executives, and scientists. Despite our varied areas of expertise, our strength is our common vision. We are black men who refuse to remain silent while black people account for over half of all new HIV infections every year in the United States. Our community must recognize that this is a state of emergency. We must each speak openly about living with HIV'whether or not we are infected, we are all affected. It is our collective responsibility to be informed and responsible. ' We must protect ourselves and our partners from the virus's continued spread. ' We must teach each other about HIV and AIDS and recognize that this is a preventable and treatable disease. ' We must get tested and encourage our partners, families, and friends to do the same. ' If we are positive, we must get into treatment. ' And we must demand that we as a black community call upon our own resources and our government to take appropriate and targeted action to combat the epidemic in our communities. Perhaps most crucial, we must engage every part of the black community in a coordinated effort to turn the tide. It is time for us to reject the paralyzing denial, stigma, and homophobia promoted by a few lone voices. We must confront the socioeconomic conditions that cause people to do drugs and exchange needles; challenge the lack of affordable medicine and treatment options available to many of us; dispel the myths and misinformation circulating in our communities; and alleviate the myriad issues that contribute to the spread of AIDS in black communities today. We are calling on every black organization in America to add AIDS to its agenda. And we are asking every black man, woman, and child to make a personal commitment to fight against HIV in our communities. Finally, it is time for black gay men to stand up and be counted. In order to participate in the healing of our community we must first heal ourselves. So we are joining together as one voice, one body, and under one spirit of love. It is through this union that our healing can begin. And so we invite our mothers, fathers, brothers, and sisters to join us in a partnership to end this pandemic. Only through coming together can we end the plague sweeping through all quarters of black America. The power to save our lives ultimately lies in our own hands! Wilson is director of the African-American HIV University, a two-year fellowship program, and founding director of the Black AIDS Institute.

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Phill Wilson