National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was founded by five national organizations funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1999 to provide capacity building assistance to Black communities and organizations. The initiative begin in 2000 with these five key organizations: Concerned Black Men, Inc. of Philadelphia; Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, Inc.; Jackson State University - Mississippi Urban Research Center; National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council; and National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day began as a grass roots effort with hundreds of organizations registering events and/or activities to raise the awareness of HIV and AIDS in their communities. It is shaped around the needs of those communities that work hard each and every year to make it a success. Each year, almost 20,000 Blacks in the United States test positive for HIV, that is an alarming amount if you multiply it times the last five years alone - that's 100,000 Blacks who are now living with HIV or may have died from AIDS related complications. It's time for us to do something different that inspires young and old, gay and straight, religious and non-religious, etc. to get on board with realizing the value and worth of Black life and acting accordingly.
February 7, 2013 marks the 13th year for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, a national HIV testing and treatment community mobilization initiative targeted at Blacks in the United States and the Diaspora. There are four specific focal points: education, testing, involvement, and treatment. Educationally, the focus is to get Blacks educated about the basics of HIV/AIDS in their local communities. Testing is at the core of this initiative, as it is hoped that Blacks will mark February 7th of every year as their annual or biannual day to get tested for HIV. This is vital for those who are sexually active and those at high risk of contracting HIV. When it comes to community and organization leadership, getting Blacks involved to serve is another key focus. We need Black People from all walks of life, economic classes, literacy levels, shades and tones as well as communities (large and small) to get connected to the work happening on the ground in their local areas. And lastly, for those living with HIV or newly testing positive for the virus, getting them connected to treatment and care services becomes paramount. We have learned that you can't lead Black people towards HIV/AIDS education, prevention, testing, leadership or treatment unless you love them. And, we can't save Black people from an epidemic unless we serve Black people.
Regardless of where we stand on sexual orientation, religious beliefs/values, age, income, education or otherwise; Black Life is worth saving and working for the betterment of our survival has to become our paramount objective and goal. "We know how it feels to lose someone from an illness, but we also know how to love someone through it. It is time for us to put AIDS behind us by making sure those living with HIV and/or AIDS know we care. We stand on some strong shoulders that intended for us to survive.." says, LaMont "Montee" Evans, NBHAAD National Coordinator.
For 2013 and moving forward, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Healthy Black Communities (HBC) will serve as the lead organization, responsible for overseeing the initiative and coordinating communication via email, and regular mail; HBC develops the imagery of the initiative annually; designs and maintains the website; and ensures that orders and registrations are received and processed accordingly. HBC has been in this role since 2006 and CEO Evans led the initiative while serving as Executive Director of Concerned Black Men, Inc. of Philadelphia. February 7, 2013 will make the 10th year CEO Evans has overseen NBHAAD either overall or through national partnerships.
This initiative has had an array of national spokespersons: congressional leaders, faith based leaders, entertainers, actors, actresses, authors, radio personalities, and the list goes on and on. Some of the most notable spokespersons have been: President Barack Obama during his term in the Illinois Senate, Congresswoman Maxine Waters, Bishop TD Jakes, Radio Personality Tom Joyner, former NAACP President and CEO Kwesi Mfume, Congressman Elijah Cummings, Actor/Author Harper Hill, Screenwriter Patrik Ian Polk, and the list goes on.
We are now asking those who are concerned about HIV/AIDS in the Black community to step up and become a leader, an NBHAAD ambassador, a local community organizer and help us raise the awareness of HIV/AIDS in Black communities, both domestically and internationally. Together, we can ensure that future generations will not have to bury as many or watch as many struggle with this epidemic.