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At DuSable, Black LGBTQ leaders talk HIV/AIDS awareness
by Ashley Collins

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Bringing awareness and creating conversations is just one of the many ways individuals from Black communities can change the way HIV and AIDS affects Black people. To kick off National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Feb. 7, GreaterWorks! President Creola A. Kizart-Hampton and DuSable Museum of African American History President/CEO Perri Irmer held a conference at the museum.

Four Black leaders and advocates from LGBTQ community-based organizations discussed how people can bring about a greater change in marginalized communities.

Those four leaders wereAffinity Community Services Executive Director Imani-Rupert-Gordon, Chicago Black Gay Men's Caucus Executive Director Erik Elias Glenn, Brave Space Alliance Executive Director LaSaia Wade and Project VIDA Executive Director Jerome Montgomery Jr.. All four provided the audience different ideas and ways in which to bring awareness about educating youth on sex, changing the stigma around HIV/AIDS as a "gay" disease and shedding light on what has already been done to marginalized communities.

Wade said, "We are demanding accountability for the lives that have been lost and the lives that have to do survival work for a system that seeks capitalism, so I say—as my elders and as my ancestors said—"Respect the sacrifice that was given to you."

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is observed every year on Feb. 7; Strategic Leadership Council coordinated this day to increase HIV education, testing, treatment and other ways to prevent the disease from spreading among Black communities. This year's theme was "Stay the Course: The Fight Is Not Over."

"Getting tested and getting tested regularly is the first step to helping reduce the spread of HIV as well as getting connected to treatment," Montgomery said. "Secondly, talk with your friends and family and your sexual partners about HIV—it's the lack of communication and education which leads to the increase of stigma. Third, volunteer or donate to your local community-based organizations that provide services to those living with HIV.

Montgomery also challenged "everyone to get politically involved—encourage your alderman, mayor, governor, state and federally elected officials to get behind initiatives to support the fight against HIV and AIDS, including comprehensive healthcare coverage such as the ACA."

Audience members were able to ask pressing questions at the end regarding the issue, and could ask for resources to help support their own causes and organization. Kizart-Hampton's departing note was, "The only way to address the institution is to address those who are in charge of the institution."

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