POSTED: Thursday, May 26, 2011 - 8:15am
UPDATED: Thursday, May 26, 2011 - 8:16am
BATON ROUGE, La. (NBC33) — The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., (NBLCA) today announced a partnership with the Baton Rouge-based nonprofit organization, Aspirations, vowing to collaboratively develop specific action steps to decrease the local impact of the disease, including campaigns to engage Black churches and policy makers as well as to advocate for additional funding to address HIV and AIDS.
The announcement came in light of updated data released this month by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicating that Baton Rouge ranks second in the nation for HIV/AIDS cases for the second consecutive year, topped only by Miami.
C. Virginia Fields, President and CEO of the NBLCA, the nation’s oldest and largest organization dealing with the disproportionate HIV/AIDS rates in the Black community, emphasized the need for urgent action to combat the epidemic in Baton Rouge and statewide.
“African Americans still account for 75 percent of new cases of HIV diagnoses and 76 percent of new AIDS cases among all Louisianans,” Fields said. “Clearly, we must do more to address the South’s public health crisis fed by alarmingly high rates of HIV/AIDS.”
Fields continued: “The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc., is partnering with prominent African-American faith leaders in Louisiana, including Rev. Dr. Joyce Turner Keller, to develop a comprehensive plan of action to combat HIV/AIDS in Baton Rouge and across the state. The plan will include educating state legislators, policy makers and public health officials in local efforts to eliminate health disparities. In the face of such alarming data, Black leaders must take action through involvement in ongoing legislative advocacy. “
Dr. Keller, a Baton Rouge faith leader living with HIV, has been working for years to educate people about the epidemic. Through the organization she founded, Aspirations, she attends church services, Bible studies, community meetings and other functions to spread the build awareness about the disease and to reduce stigma associated with it. In June, she will headline a conference on AIDS in Washington, hosted by the ADAP Advocacy Association. She is calling on Black churches to join her in her mission.
“The Black church has been at the forefront of every significant change in America,” Dr. Keller said. “We must be at the forefront of raising awareness in our communities, as Blacks are more disproportionately infected than any other people. If not now, when?
Dr. Keller also has agreed to help promote a major campaign launched earlier this year by the NBLCA entitled ‘30 Years Strong! Together We Will Win!’ The campaign is geared toward the 30th anniversary of the identification of the AIDS virus and aims to renew awareness about and reinvigorate the fight against HIV/AIDS by encouraging those affected and infected by the virus to share stories and photos of how it has impacted their lives and the lives of loved ones.
The NBLCA also has established a Hall of Hope and Remembrance to recognize the stellar contributions of select individuals and corporations in the areas of HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care in the United States. The first honorees for the hall will be inducted at the NBLCA’s annual Choose Life Awards Benefit Reception on June 9, 2011.
Fields added: “Although we acknowledge the severity of the State of Louisiana’s budget woes, the CDC’s data strongly supports the need for more targeted federal, state and local funding to address the urgent prevention, treatment and care needs of high risk African American populations across the state of Louisiana and the nation. We have got to make sure that the Black community is not left out of the funding stream.”
The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, founded in 1987, is the oldest group of its kind. A not-for-profit organization, its mission is to educate, mobilize and empower Black leaders to meet the challenge of fighting HIV/AIDS and other health disparities in their local communities. The NBLCA conducts policy, advocacy and research on HIV/AIDS issues and ensures the effective participation of its leadership wherever public policies are developed and resources are allocated.