How AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue

Is AIDS a civil rights issue? Yes, says a new campaign. To commemorate Martin Luther King Jr. Day, observed this Monday, Jan. 20th, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is releasing a new national billboard awareness campaign headlined “AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue.”

As African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS compared with their respective percentages of the overall population, AHF’s billboards are intended to serve as a reminder of this and suggest that access to HIV prevention and care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be a universal human right.

Currently African Americans account for 44% of all people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, yet only account for 12% of the population. Latinos account for 21% of all new HIV infections nationwide, yet only represent 16% of the U.S. Population.

“We decided to commemorate the Martin Luther King Holiday with the launch of ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue,’ our new national awareness and advocacy campaign,” said Michael Weinstein, president of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “Through the campaign, we hope to open dialogue with stakeholders in the community, the public health arena, and faith-based groups as well as public officials.”

The billboard campaign is to run in Atlanta; Washington, DC; Columbus, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi; South Florida and in Los Angeles. In most of the cities, the campaign will also be posted as transit shelter ads.

Disproportionately high numbers of HIV/AIDs cases among communities of color may be caused by several factors, including:

  • Lack of access to clinics for care and HIV testing, as well as to condoms and safer sex educational opportunities.
  • High levels of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in these communities prevent people from learning their HIV status, or from seeking care and speaking honestly with their sexual partners if they know they are positive.
  • Both society and the healthcare industry have marginalized members of these communities both on account of sexual orientation and race, blocking essential treatment, care, and education for those who need it.

AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is a global AIDS organization.

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