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Local News in Virginia

December 1: World AIDS Day Continues Its Theme: ‘Getting To Zero’

By Leonard E. Colvin

Chief Reporter

New Journal and Guide

On December 1, World AIDS Day will be observed around the world, and Hampton Roads has a week of events and programming highlighting the continuing fight to rid the world of the disease,

The 27th World AIDS Day (WAD) will be celebrated for the fifth straight year with the “Getting to Zero” theme, exerting the desire by the army of advocates and physicians to achieve zero cases of infection, zero deaths and zero discrimination.

The World AIDS Day Observance in Hampton Roads starts on December 1, highlighted by the AIDS Awareness Conference at 6 p.m. at Second Calvary Baptist Church at 2940 Corprew Avenue in Norfolk.

On that same day EVMS’s C3ID program will host a workshop with Bonnie Collins starting at 7 p.m. to discuss HIV Adherence Strategies for Case Managers.

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On December 4, the World AID Day Gala will be held at the Eastern Virginia Medical Center’s Lester Hall at 651 Colley Avenue in Norfolk and is organized by EVMS’s AIDS Resource Center. Tickets are $10.

On December 5, the area’s World AIDS Day Walk will start at 9 a.m. at the Gethsemane Baptist Church at 1317 Brambleton Avenue, ending at the EVMS Smith-Rodgers Hall at 358 Mowbray Arch.

HIV testing will be available after the walk.

On December 11, a play “Railings” will be staged at the ODU Theater at 4610 Hampton Blvd at 7 p.m. Admission is free to see the Terrence After-Anderson Play Production.

Recently actor Charlie Sheen announced he was HIV Positive, joining former NBA star Magic Johnson as a high profile face which allows each of us to know someone who is infected by the disease and its ability to affect more than the poor and people of color.

However, HIV is still affecting African-Americans, the poor and youth harder than any other grouping. According to the 2012 figures from the Center for Disease Control (CDC) in Atlanta. 1.2 million-plus people are living with HIV; 18.1 percent are unaware of their HIV status and unknowingly may be transmitting the infection to others.

In 2010, 48,298 new cases were detected; adults accounted for most of those cases with females accounting for 9,868 cases.

Children younger than 13 years of age accounted for 217 HIV cases and 7,565 diagnoses were among the 20-24 years of age group.

While African-Americans make up 14 percent of the nation’s population, they are 44 percent of all new HIV infections. Further, they make up 46 percent of all those living with the disease. One in six Black men will be diagnosed with HIV during their life time as well as 1 in 32 women.

Black men account for 70 percent of the new HIV infections and Black women account for 30 percent. Black MSMs – men who have sex with men – bear the burden of new infections more than any other age and racial grouping.

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Virginia ranks 13th among states so far as new HIV diagnoses, as of December 2014. There are 25,690 cases in the state and Blacks accounted for 59 percent of those cases and 60 percent of new diagnoses from 2005-2014.

The percentage of people living in communities with HIV is a concern among activists and state health officials. Fairfax County had the highest percentage at 11.1; Richmond was second with 9.7 percent; Norfolk was third with 9.0 percent; Virginia Beach was sixth with 5.2 percent; Newport News was 3.7 percent; and Portsmouth was 3.0 percent.

During the week of World AIDS Day observances, a consortium of Hampton Roads faith-based organizations and churches are joining forces to promote awareness about the disease.

The organization Hope 4 Tomorrow has organized a week of Healing and Prayer programming honoring the theme of World AIDS Day 2015.

The group is partnering with the Tidewater Metro Baptist Ministers Conference, and most of the events will be held at First Baptist Church Bute Street and neighboring Queen Street Baptist.

The observance will be highlighted on December 5 with various nationally recognized speakers, including Bishop Charles Ellis, III, Apostle Janice Thomas, Dr. Lane Watson, Dr. Peter Wherry.

A dinner and gala that night at 7 p.m. will feature Dr. Thomasine Reid at Queen Street Baptist Church. It is free to the public.

Although this is the first time for this collaboration, faith-based entities have joined forces in the past to observe World AIDS Day and serve those impacted by the disease. Many Black churches, especially, have devoted resources to the cause.

For instance, Bethany Baptist Church of Chesapeake and the late Rev. Jake Manley had early HIV/AIDS ministries to aid people who were diagnosed with the disease by providing counseling and other services to them.

The International Black Women’s Congress (IBWC) has been involved in HIV/AIDS outreach, education and programs, since it first opened its doors in 1983, a time when HIV first emerged.

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Cynthia Rodgers, the Program Director of IBWC, finds the fact that more churches are joining the cause to be encouraging.

“The churches have always been there, but recently it seems that their involvement is broadening and more evident,” said Rodgers. “The church is realizing its responsibility because so many people are vulnerable to the disease and many of them are members of congregations.”

Rodgers said one of the newest trends in combating the spread of HIV is Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis or Prep. The 300 milligram pill is being taken daily by HIV negative men who are having sex with other men without condoms. Trial results indicate it is effective.

It is being provided via prescriptions from private physicians.

“Initially, I had my doubts, but the research is promising for Prep for those who do not like using condoms,” said Rodgers. “But the drawback is that it does not protect you from other Sexually Transmitted Diseases.”

Tonya Kearney is the director of the EVMS AIDS Resource Center which is the clearing house for a broad range of programs, services and information on the current treatments and resources used in fighting HIV in the region.

She also said she was encouraged by the increased involvement of the local churches in the effort to educate people about HIV and prevent new infections.

‘The congregations are Gays and Straight and females and males which represent our collective diversity,” said Kearney. “It shows that you can hold on to the things you believe as a Christian, but you must embrace everyone.”

Kearney said the revelation that Charlie Sheen is HIV Positive “starts the whole conversation again.”

“His face does not represent the people we normally serve,” said Kearney. “His situation tells you that HIV is not respective of anyone, regardless of race … People are at risk especially those involved in risky behavior.”

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Kearney pointed out that not only are healthcare workers worried about the spread of HIV, also Hepatitis C is posing a dual threat of infecting vulnerable populations

But she said that new medicines have been able to cure Hepatitis C at a 90 percent rate of success.

Another piece of good news, along with PreP, according to Kearney, is the introduction of another single daily pill regimen called Genvora made by the company Gilead.

She also mentioned the introduction of an intramuscular vaccine injected into individuals to prevent the spread of HIV.

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