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World AIDS Day: A Letter To Urban Communities

Submitted by on December 1, 2010 – 12:25 pm3 Comments

During the Women in Entertainment Empowerment Network (WEEN) Awards held recently in New York (I’m part of the organization) there was not a dry eye in the place when international HIV/AIDS activist Hydeia Broadbent took to the stage to accept her award.

Hydeia contracted HIV at birth from her drug-addicted biological mother and has battled the disease ever since with the help of her adopted parents, Patricia and Loren Broadbent. She began speaking publicly about the disease from a young age, appearing on shows like Oprah and Good Morning America. She travels the country educating people of all ages about the dangers of AIDS and how to protect themselves from contracting it.

Here’s an excerpt from Hydeia’s new statement, released today for World AIDS Day 2010:

Since HIV is hitting the African American community the hardest it should mean a lot.

While HIV is not something that just affects African American, and Hip Hop is not something just black people enjoy or support, we can’t ignore the facts.

Just like Hip Hop runs through the blood of our inner cities, so does HIV.

Like Hip Hop, the fight against AIDS has been watered down. We are complacent with the medical advancements made just as Hip Hop is complacent with its commercial success.

Hip Hop’s lyrical content seems to be only about sex, popping bottles, and clothes. It has forgotten how to make people think. Today’s Hip Hop reflects a void of understanding within our community.

When it comes to AIDS in the African American community we have chosen to turn a blind eye and not talk about it. It makes us comfortable to ignore the subject.

The fact is our community is being hit the hardest. How can we remain silent any longer?

What happened to the Hip Hop campaigns in the early 1990s that told us to “Rap It Up?” Maybe some people are happy that we, as a community, have not learned how to work together in fighting HIV/AIDS or learned how to educate our brothers and sisters on safe sex. A line that replays in my head from Nas’ song “If I ruled the World” exclaims, “It’s elementary, they want us all gone eventually.”

AIDS has not gone away. It has become a silent killer in the African American community because we have forgotten how to speak up and speak out. We don’t seem to care about our neighbors or ourselves. This is evident in the lack of responsibility people are taking with their own sexual health. CDC estimates that more than one million people are living with HIV in the United States. One in five (21%) of those people living with HIV is unaware of their infection. This means that people could be unknowingly infecting others. At what point will we start talking about HIV without our minds drifting to the long held misconception that it is a gay disease? The H in HIV stands for human, meaning any part of the human body that gives life, or preserves life can transmit HIV.

While African Americans make up only 12% of the US population, we make up 50% of all new diagnosis of HIV. For my African American women, HIV infection is nearly 15 times as high as that of white women and nearly 4 times that of Hispanic/Latina women.

Read the full open letter at WEENOnline.org.

Watch Hydeia’s HIV/AIDS PSA video from 2009:

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