To honor and observe World AIDS Day on Dec. 1, the board members of the World AIDS Museum in Wilton Manors will split their attendance between events in Wilton Manors and at Dillard High School in Fort Lauderdale.
The night before, Nov. 30 from 6 to 7:30 p.m. at the museum, Bobby Henry, publisher of the Westside Gazette, Broward County’s oldest African-American newspaper, will be honored during “Ribbons for the Children, Youth Art Exhibit and Opening Reception.” The event will feature young artists and work they’ve done to honor and interpret World AIDS Day.
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The Wilton Manors event will begin at Hagen Park at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 1. At 7 p.m., attendees will march down Wilton Drive to The Pride Center. The art reception will be from 6 to 7:30 p.m. It is free and open to the public. Refreshments will be served.
Hugh Bestwig, CEO of the World AIDS Day, said Henry is being honored for using his newspaper to offer regular coverage of how HIV/AIDS is impacting the African-American community. “He’s done a lot of stuff in almost every issue. Rarely a week goes by that they don’t have things go in,” Bestwig said. “Henry also joined our board this year.”
Bestwig said it’s very important to reach out to all different groups about the disease, especially the Latino and African-American communities, which are seeing rates of infection disproportionate to their size.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2014, 44 percent of new HIV cases in the United States were among African Americans, who make up 12 percent of the population. Of those, 73 percent were men and 26 percent were women.
Henry and the World AIDS Museum also collaborated on a short film – “Saving Grace: Confronting HIV/AIDS in the Black Community.”
The film includes interviews with members of the African American community who either have HIV/AIDS or have family members who have the disease or have died from it. They talk about their experiences as well as the stigma the African American community attaches to the disease, making it harder to educate people and fight the disease.
“My experience as a black person is that it was shameful. You didn’t want anyone to know. You didn’t want to put shame on your family. So even if you find out that you’re HIV [positive] it would be a hush hush. For me it’s a lack of educating,” said AIDS activist Dr. Sonia Mitchell. She went on to say the problem is also bad in her homeland, Jamaica.
“HIV’s there like no tomorrow. But no one’s talking about it. So people are walking around killing each other off. It’s the silence that is killing.”