Louisiana has the fifth highest rate of AIDS cases in the U.S., and nearly 7,000 people in New Orleans live with HIV/AIDS — more than 60 percent of those people are black.
Today (Tuesday, Feb. 7) is Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, and health advocacy groups have launched HIVNOLA.com, a go-to resource directory for services in New Orleans and a "social network" for information about HIV and AIDS education, testing and treatment. The website and corresponding Twitter and Facebook page also are the launching pad for the Red Umbrella March, an awareness march next month.
James Perry and Melissa Harris-Perry helped design and host the site organized by event coordinator Michael Hickerson. James Perry wrote on the group's blog, "For whatever reason, the HIV prevention message is not reaching OUR community. As involved and concerned African Americans WE must be doing everything in OUR power to educate OUR community about HIV/AIDS."
National Black Justice Coalition director Sharon J. Lettman-Hicks wrote (in a column titled "Shattering the silence around HIV/AIDS in the black community") that the above figures "do not include those who will go undiagnosed. Shame, denial and lack of information about human sexuality fuel the skyrocketing HIV rates that we are experiencing."
White House senior adviser Valerie Jarrett writes, "We each must do our part by getting tested regularly, and by educating those in our community about what they can do to help end the epidemic."
The Red Umbrella March begins 2 pm, Saturday, March 10 at Hunter's Field (at North Claiborne and St. Bernard avenues).