Bergen Passaic Chapter Raises Awareness of HIV and AIDS
(Excerpts from NorthJersey.com)
Educating youngsters by raising awareness of HIV/AIDS was the goal behind the recent Red Ribbon Forum in Teaneck, organizers said.
The Dec. 8 event, held in recognition of World AIDS Day 2012, was sponsored by the Bergen/ Passaic Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women along with Teaneck High School's FORUM, a youth services program. It drew about 45 teenagers from Teaneck and the surrounding area, including Hackensack, Englewood and Bogota.
Now in its third year at Teaneck High School, the program consisted of a speech by Lolisa Gibson, an
HIV-positive activist, educator and author; a performance by Reflections, a teen theatre group; and questions and answers with the health committee of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women Bergen/Passaic Chapter.
"The main reasons why we do this are because young people think that HIV/AIDS does not affect them, but that they are vulnerable. Whether it's through sexual intercourse or whether it's through being born, we need to let them know that HIV/AIDS is still around," said Paula Madison-Jenkins, chair of the health committee.
"People are getting infected, and young people are one of the highest groups that HIV/AIDS affects," she added. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 1.1 million people in the U.S. are estimated to have HIV, with around 50,000 people contracting the virus each year. One in four new HIV infections occurs in individuals between 13 and 24 years old.
The CDC further noted that in 2010, approximately 12,000 youths - or about 1,000 per month -- were infected with HIV in the U.S. Sixty percent of youth with HIV are unaware they are infected and can unknowingly transmit the virus, the CDC added.
Beyond the statistics, Gibson, 26, shared her story of finding out she was HIV-positive at the age of 17.
Deborah Witcher Jackson, president of the Bergen/Passaic Chapter of the National Coalition of 100 Black Women, said individuals may fear getting tested for HIV, but noted doing so saves lives.
"One, there's the fear factor. People don't want to go get tested because they don't want to know. If I don't know, then it doesn't matter. But you need to know your status because you can live with HIV now; it's not a death sentence," Jackson said. "We've come a long ways with the treatment and the life expectancy," she added. "So people just need to be made aware it's a condition that can be treated if it's caught early."