By DEXTER MULLINS
NABJ and the Black AIDS Institute will team up for a year-long partnership focused on raising HIV/AIDS awareness in the black community.
The goal of the Test 1 Million HIV/AIDS awareness campaign, announced Thursday during a news conference, is to get 1 million African-Americans tested for HIV/AIDS within tone year.
Actress Regina King, spokeswoman for the initiative, said that with NABJ’s help, “we can drastically reduce the numbers.”
“I am a mother, and I want my 14 year-old son to be aware of what’s going on,” King said during a news conference. “He’s at the age where sex is knocking at the door.”
Testing will be available at the Black AIDS Institute’s booth in the NABJ job fair. Results can be obtained in as little as one hour.
Phill Wilson, founder and executive director of the Black AIDS Institute, said this partnership is especially critical to the campaign’s success. Wilson wants black journalists to use this initiative to promote stories in all mediums about HIV.
“Nobody can save us from us,” Wilson said. “One in five Americans living with HIV don’t know their status.”
According to Wilson, 2011 will mark the 35th anniversary of the first diagnosed case of HIV in America. He says that it didn’t have to happen, but it will continue to happen as long as people don’t get tested or know their status.
“A lot of black people find out less than a year before they get a full blown AIDS diagnosis,” Wilson said.
King volunteered to work with the organization three years ago, and openly took an HIV test in public and had her results shared publicly. Her results were negative but she said it was a scary experience because she had not taken a test in a while, but the message she was sending encouraged her to do it.
“I’ve had a friend who has been living with HIV for 19 years now,” King said. “Those stories need to be brought to the forefront more often. I think that so many young people feel like if they find out they are HIV positive … it’s like a death sentence.”
King told journalists in the room that there is a celebrity in virtually every city who will publicly stand up and support the initiative to get tested. However, she said, journalists don’t need to wait for celebrities.
“(Journalists) should also publicly get tested and broadcast it on the radio, at your station, or write about it,” King said. “You’ll save lives. You will literally save lives.”