In the 1980s, HIV, the virus which causes AIDS, carried a deadly stigma. The virus was initially thought only to spread among communities which put themselves “at risk.” AIDS was a “gay” disease, or the killer of “drug addicts” and needle-sharers.
Yesterday, Dennis deLeon, former New York City Human Rights Commissioner and prominent latino AIDS activist, died in Manhattan at 61 years old from heart failure. deLeon was one of the first city officials to announce that he was infected with HIV. The work he and others did to build awareness and education of HIV/AIDS helped reduce the virus' stigma.
Yet in some communities, HIV remains a potent killer. According to the CDC, African-Americans account for 51 percent of our country's HIV/AIDS cases – while only making up 12 percent of our population.
In an attempt to draw attention to and combat the spread of HIV/AIDS, the National Black Leadership Commission, led by African-American clergy, convened in Detroit yesterday. The conference brings together religious, political and labor leaders in hopes of pushing a Congressional bill that would help tackle the spread of the virus in at-risk communities.
In this conversation we speak with Rev. Horace Sheffield, of New Galilee Baptist Church in Detroit, who spearheaded the conference; along with Dazon Dixon Diallo, the Founder and President of Sister Love, a women’s HIV/AIDS and Reproductive Justice Organization in Atlanta, Georgia. Together, they discuss some of the structural and social reasons that make the African-American community so vulnerable to infection.