In observance of the Eleventh National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, CMS Health Initiatives is partnering with Rock the Block Campaign and Community Education Group to host their Fifth Annual Health Fair and Celebration of the Arts event at THEARC in Washington, D.C. on Feb. 7 from 5-8 p.m.

There will be an interactive HIV-101 educational session, free HIV testing, a digital art display, spoken word and musical performances, free food and giveaways.

“We, as a people, must get more involved in knowing the status of our health and need to uplift one another in the community, which is the essence of this celebration – to empower the community to work in harmony to fight HIV/AIDS,” said Dr. Alsean Bryant, chief operations officer for CMS Health Initiatives and chair of the event.

The HIV/AIDS epidemic has reached shocking levels in Black communities – not only in the District but across the United States.

According to the DC Department of Health, from 2001 to 2006 there were 1,092 new HIV/AIDS cases in Ward 8 alone.

Maranda Ward, program manager for Adolescent Prevention Education Programs, said youth are at an increased risk of coming into contact with a HIV infected partner.

“For this reason, we should not limit increased HIV awareness to this one day,” said Ward. “But, we will take advantage of a community event to increase awareness about the state of HIV in the Black community, as well as ways to either prevent HIV infection or help to reduce its spread.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), Blacks represent 14 percent of the U.S. population; however, in 2006 Blacks represented 45 percent of all new HIV cases in the U.S.

In fact, in 2006 HIV was the ninth leading cause of death among Blacks.

“The Rock the Block Campaign is looking to reach D.C.-area youth ages 14-24 with HIV prevention messages and free HIV testing all while having a bit of fun,” said Ward.

There will be a series of performances: dance, spoken word and a musical performance by Allison Carney ? in addition to an art exhibit that will feature the work of digital artist Mia Robinson.

Eight other community-based organizations have committed and reserved space at the health fair. They include: City Year, Metro Teen Aids, Unity Health Care, CryOut, Inc. of New Jersey, Sasha Bruce, Howard University Student National Pharmaceutical Association, Housing Counseling Services and StreetWize DC.

CMS Health Initiatives is a District-based non-profit organization that utilizes clinical pharmacists to address health disparities.

National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was founded by five national organizations with funding received from the CDC in 1999. Founding organizations include Concerned Black Men of Philadelphia, Health Watch Information and Promotion Services, Jackson State University – Mississippi Urban Research Center, National Black Alcoholism and Addictions Council and National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS.

Abdullah Jones is a communications volunteer at CMS Health Initiatives.

Abdullah Jones

Special to the AFRO