Illustration for article titled World AIDS Day is Nothing to Celebrate

All that’s missing is a white sale.

Wednesday is World AIDS Day, a day set aside to acknowledge the worldwide struggle against HIV/AIDS and to remember those we’ve lost. It’s a day of commemoration, not celebration; one for somber observances, not church picnics.


It was shocking, then, to read about a Baptist church in Oakland, Calif., planning a day of barbecue, music and comedy because congregants believe that is the best way to get the attention of African Americans.

They’re also offering free HIV testing. When’s that supposed to take place – before or after the cha cha slide?


Don’t get me wrong: I’m all for spreading the word about the AIDS epidemic – and it is an epidemic, especially among African Americans. I just prefer we not underestimate the intelligence of African Americans by assuming the only way to get such life-and-death information into our hands is if it’s stuck there with chicken grease.

If you think the obesity statistics are horrible, check out these numbers from the Centers of Disease Control and Prevention:

·        In 2006, black men accounted for two-thirds of new infections (65%) among all blacks. The rate of new HIV infection for black men was 6 times as high as that of white men, nearly 3 times that of Hispanic/Latino men, and twice that of black women.

·        In 2006, black men who have sex with men (MSM) represented 63% of new infections among all black men, and 35% among all MSM. HIV infection rates are higher among black MSM compared to other MSM. More new HIV infections occurred among young black MSM (aged 13–29) than among any other age and racial group of MSM.

·        In 2006, the rate of new HIV infection for black women was nearly 15 times as high as that of white women and nearly 4 times that of Hispanic/Latina women.


·        At some point in their lifetimes, 1 in 16 black men will be diagnosed with HIV infection, as will 1 in 30 black women.

·        From 2005–2008, the rate of HIV diagnoses among blacks increased from 68/100,000 persons to 74/100,000. This increase reflects the largest increase in rates of HIV diagnoses by race or ethnicity.


·        In 2006, HIV was the ninth leading cause of death for all blacks and the third leading cause of death for both black men and black women aged 35–44.

Here’s one more for ya: African Americans continue to experience higher rates of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) than any other race/ethnicity in the United States.


The presence of certain STDs can significantly increase the chance of contracting HIV infection. A person who has both HIV infection and certain STDs has a greater chance of infecting others with HIV.

So tell me, when you think of a church barbecue with music and other entertainment, what comes to mind? Good, clean fun? Sure.


But also this: I bet that’s a good place to find a man. I’m guessing the deacons won’t be handing out free condoms, or brochures on how to properly use them.

Most World AIDS Day observances are in the form of memorials honoring loved ones who’ve died from HIV/AIDS. Every year, millions of men, women and children die of AIDS, which is why the day is also used to renew commitment to HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care.


The Oakland church will have a comedian serve as master of ceremonies over its World AIDS Day festivities.

Wow. Just . . . wow.

AIDS is an absolutely tragic disease. The argument about AIDS' being some kind of divine retribution is crap. ~  Calvin Klein


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Leslie J. Ansley is an award-winning journalist and entrepreneur who blogs daily for TheRoot. She lives in Raleigh, NC.

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