Local activists seek to educate black community about HIV/AIDS

Feb 7, 2013

Half the people who contract HIV in the United States are African-American, according to statistics released last year. Advocates hope  National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, which is today, leads to more education about the disease in the black community.  Locally, there will be a push to do just that in Syracuse this weekend.

Sometimes people call Shawn Mann, one of the condom people.  She's a peer educator out of the Aids Community Resource Center in Syracuse, and one of her jobs is AIDS education in the black community.  Part of that  job is talking up  prevention and handing out condoms.

"I've had people stop me even when I'm not being a peer educator. 'Shawn, you got any condoms?' And I'll see what I can do to get 'em some," said Mann.

She says many teens and young people are listening to the message, but there is still a disconnect for some, and she blames that on a lack of education.
 
"I talked to a very young child, a friend of mine's son, and he thought you could still get AIDS from using the bathroom behind someone who had AIDS. So a lot of it's education."

Mann would like to see more education about HIV and AIDS in the schools.  She also believes women have to draw a line when men don't want to use condoms during sex.

"We tend to, as women, because we like 'em, or whatever reason, will go along with the program. But we need to take a stand -- and men, too -- we need to take a stand: no condom no sex."

This weekend, as part of the Black HIV/AIDS awareness push, community organizations and churches  in Syracuse will spread the message of prevention and treatment of HIV AIDS.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-Americans  accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009, yet made up only 14-percent of the U.S. population.  African-Americans account for a higher proportion of HIV infections at all stages of the disease, and the mortality rate is ten times higher for African-Americans than for whites