DETROIT HEALTH DEPARTMENT COMMEMORATES WORLD AIDS DAY 2008 WITH EVENTS DEC. 1 AND DEC. 5
It’s been 27 years since the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was first recognized and the world became galvanized in the effort to stop the spread of the acquired immune deficiency syndrome, better known as AIDS. Each year in December, to keep the health issue in the forefront of the public’s consciousness, World AIDS Day is observed.
Locally, the City of Detroit Department of Health and Wellness Promotion (DHWP) will mark the day with two events - one on Monday, Dec. 1 and another on Friday, Dec. 5. The first event is a midday World AIDS Day Commemoration to be held on Monday, Dec. 1 from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. in the ballroom at the Northwest Activities Center, 18100 Meyers in Detroit. Participating organizations include the Michigan Department of Community Health’s Division of Health, Wellness and Disease Control (MDCH/DHWDC), the Detroit Public Schools, and the Wayne County Department of Public Health.
A second event, called "Reflections: A Day of Healing," is planned for Friday, Dec. 5 at 7 p.m. at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries, 138 Stimson in Detroit. The program will feature a reception at 6:30 p.m., followed by a candlelight tribute. The tribute will honor those who lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS as well as those agencies that combat the disease. Inspirational speaking and music will round out the schedule.
The theme for the Dec. 1 observance is “Stop AIDS. Keep the Promise: Lead-Empower-Deliver.” More than 20 area HIV/AIDS prevention services will offer free confidential HIV testing, along with screenings for sexually-transmitted diseases (STDs). Also, additional screenings for high blood pressure, glucose, and cholesterol, along with TB testing, will be available. The master of ceremonies at the Northwest Activities Center will be Fox 2 News television anchor Charles Pugh.
“When people get tested, they have a chance,” said Dr. Renee McCoy, Director of HIV/AIDS Programs for DHWP. “If they test positive, they can receive effective treatment that will enable them to live long and comfortable lives. If they do not have this disease, they have a chance to never get it. HIV/AIDS is 100 percent preventable, but it takes being responsible and knowledgeable, and deciding that your future is worth protecting,” added Dr. McCoy.
At the World AIDS Day Commemoration at Northwest Activities Center, refreshments will be offered and local/state dignitaries will be on hand. Skits focusing on HIV/AIDS issues will be performed by the participants in the Youth Development Institute, which is sponsored by the City of Detroit Health & Wellness Promotion’s Bureau of Substance Abuse. Children’s Hospital Horizons Project will also present an educational workshop on HIV/AIDS and STDs.
Included in the Dec. 5 event at Detroit Rescue Mission Ministries is the 6th Annual Blankets for AIDS Drive spearheaded by the nonprofit organization Higher Ground. New blankets will be taken for people living with HIV/AIDS. There are more than 6,000 people living with HIV/AIDS in Detroit and over 18,000 individuals with this disease throughout our state, according to Dr. McCoy.
“On this World AIDS Day, we are called to increase our care for persons living with HIV/AIDS,” she said. “All of us can do something to lessen the pain and struggles of persons living with HIV/AIDS. They need the prayers of our faith communities. They need contributions of our time and our resources. They need us to demand quality health care and affordable housing and access to medication regardless of income. More than anything, they need our love and our compassion.”
Dr. McCoy said the disease is on the rise in Detroit. “HIV/AIDS is increasing around us while it is decreasing in other urban areas. Additionally, HIV/AIDS is affecting African-Americans at an alarming rate. Blacks in Michigan are eight times more likely to get this disease than whites. The rate of HIV/AIDS for Detroit is three times higher than that of the six surrounding counties combined. There are 2,100 women living with HIV/AIDS in our neighborhoods; over 1,700 of those women are black.”
HIV/AIDS is particularly spreading among Detroit’s youth, according to Dr. McCoy, which means that more youth need to be tested. “Testing for HIV/AIDS is a top priority for our future, and our greatest defense against the disease. Over the past year the DHWP has tested over 11,000 persons. Although that may seem like a lot, we’ve only touched the surface of controlling the spread of this disease. Our only weapon against HIV/AIDS is testing,” said Dr. McCoy. Those who wish to get information on free, confidential HIV/AIDS testing should call the DHWP at (313) 876-0980.
For more on the World AIDS Day Commemoration, call Anthony Harris of the DHWP at (313) 876-4878; for information on Reflections: A Day of Healing, call the DHWP’s Carolyn King at (313) 876-0266.