Bessie Smith Cultural Center Hosts National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day Event Feb. 6

Friday, January 31, 2014

Organized over a decade ago, National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is an opportunity to promote HIV prevention, testing, and treatment among Blacks. The theme for the 2014 awareness day is “We Are The Ones We’ve Been Waiting For”, emphasizing Blacks getting involved as leaders in the community to raise awareness, promote testing, and encourage treatment.

On Thursday, February 6 at 6 p.m. EST, Jamar Rogers, former Finalist of NBC’s ‘The Voice’ will perform at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center, 200 E. Martin L. King Blvd., Chattanooga, TN in recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. Growing up, Jamar showed tremendous talent for singing as early as six years of age, but soon fell prey to the emotional problems that come with growing up in a fatherless household and became addicted to drugs to fill the missing piece. As his life began to spiral out of control, the unthinkable happened; Jamar was declared HIV-positive. Completely broken, Jamar somehow found the light in the darkest time of his life and began to turn things around.

Acknowledging his experience, Jamar Rogers says, “my message is that of love and of redemption, that you can put your mind to whatever you want to and I don’t care what it is you have been through. If you are willing to live your best life; you really can do that.”

Jamar Rogers is one of the more than 1.1 million people living with HIV infection in United States. According to federal statistics, every nine and a half minutes another person in the U.S. is infected with HIV contributing to approximately 50,000 new infections in the U.S. each year. Statistics in the southern region of the United States are alarming. The South accounts for only 37% of the population, but approximately 50% of new HIV diagnoses. In Tennessee, there were a total of 923 new cases of HIV and 19,083 people living with HIV by the end of 2012. HIV is primarily transmitted through unprotected sex and sharing needles with someone who has HIV. There is no cure for HIV or AIDS, but it is preventable and treatable.

“After 30 years, we have made significant strides, but our work is not done until we end HIV transmission. We must continue our collective community education, prevention, testing, and treatment efforts. We must also address the root causes of HIV,” says Dr. Shanell L. McGoy, Director of the HIV/STD Section, Tennessee Department of Health.

Helen Adams, Minority AIDS Initiative Coordinator at the Tennessee Department of Health says, “African Americans comprise the burden of HIV, both nationally and in the State of Tennessee. In Hamilton County (Chattanooga), African Americans represent approximately 20% of the population and make up 62% of new cases and 44% of people living with HIV/AIDS as of 2012. There are many social factors that contribute to HIV among African Americans—poverty, not knowing one’s status, stigma, fear, homophobia, and even compliancy, but there is hope. Jamar Rogers is proof that you can overcome any obstacle and live a full life with a positive status.”

Laurie Tucker, STD Supervisor, Chattanooga-Hamilton Co. Heath Department stated, “Nationally 1 in 6 people are unaware of their status. The test is free. Take the test, know your status.”

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