The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), in conjunction with the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS of Washington, D.C., hosted a town hall meeting on Sept. 16 that brought together national leaders and community members to discuss the greater number of HIV/AIDS-related deaths and lower survival rates in the African-American community.

“We as a nation recognized long ago that HIV and AIDS are at crisis levels in the Black community,” said Rev. Calvin Butts III, chairman of the NBLCA board, in a statement. “This year we must finally put into place policies that address the alarming numbers we have been seeing for decades.” Butts is also a member of President Obama’s Presidential Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS.

According to the latest statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, at the end of 2007 African-Americans accounted for nearly half of all people living with an HIV diagnosis in the United States. African-Americans account for roughly 12 percent of the total U.S. population.

The commission said it plans to hold similar meetings in New York, Atlanta, Detroit and Los Angeles and said it seeks the participation of community leaders, health practitioners, citizens, and policy makers to help forge a way to reduce infection rates and increase survival rates in Black communities.

In July, President Obama announced his strategy to combat HIV/AIDS in America with a focus on prevention and increasing access to care that maximizes health outcomes. At a 2006 World AIDS Day speech in California, the then Senator Obama called for an “all-hands-on deck effort” to solve the AIDS crisis.

However, many African-American leaders and organizations say that enough has not been done to target the disease among African-Americans. An additional statement recently released by the NBLCA said that they aim to “ensure that Obama’s strategy adequately address the unmet prevention, treatment and care needs with the African-American community.”