Pictured are Sylvia Thomas, Shannon Green, Laura Brown, Johnlyn Clark, Leah Walters, and Jolivette Glasgow, Diona Thomas, Valeria Williams, Donna Hardeman, Janet Taylor, Latonya Robinson-Kanonu, Gladys Peters, Barbara Bluntson, Johnnie Maberry, Bernadatte Gilbert, Yolanda Davis, Linden Haynes, Dionne Woody, Daphne Higgins, Southern Regional Secretary; Dr. Yvonne Maddox, keynote speaker; Katrina B Myricks, Chapter President, and Keila Brown, Second Vice President.
Approximated 100 people attended the World AIDS Day event hosted by the Clinton Alumnae, Jackson Alumnae, and Madison County Alumnae Chapters of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. in partnership with Tougaloo College Owens Health and Wellness Center.
Individuals in attendance listened closely to the keynote speaker, Dr. Yvonne Maddox, acting director of the National Institute on Minority Health and Health Disparities (NIMHD), discuss the theme of the event “Getting 2 Zero” using straight talk to discuss HIV and AIDS. The audience was informed that there are 1.1 million people living with HIV/AIDS in the U.S., 180,000 don't know they are infected, and 36 million people have died from the disease.
African-American women are the fourth leading group of people impacted by HIV behind white men who sleep with men, black men who sleep with men, and Hispanic men who sleep with men. But, most startling of all was the revelation that ages 13-24 is the highest infected group with HIV/AIDS.
After the spirit-filled entertainment provided by Jason Gibson & Destiny’s Project, it was time for the panel discussion. Local experts in HIV/AIDS education and healthcare aimed to shed more light on the HIV/AIDS problem in Mississippi and educated the audience on what's being done by various agencies and nonprofits.
The panelists were Mauda L. Monger, director of the Mississippi AIDS Education Training Center; J. Cody Walker, program manager for AIDS Healthcare Foundation; and Antonio Williams, special projects officer for Mississippi State Department of Health's STD/HIV Office, Policy Branch.
Each panelist spoke on the continued shame and stigma faced by individuals living with HIV and AIDS, and the need for more open and honest communication in communities. Three startling statistics that most audience members didn't know included: Mississippi is ranked tenth in the United States for the rate of HIV infections, the Jackson metro area is eighth in the rate of HIV infections, in 2013 there were 566 new cases of HIV in Mississippi, and 79 percent of that group were African American men.
The event ended with individuals visiting various vendors in the field, including on-site testing for HIV. One major lesson learned was screen one to protect two — get tested for HIV.