In observation of World AIDS Day, the following is an excerpt from a new anthology of stories by Black celebrities and leaders on the issue of HIV and AIDS in the Black community. Entitled, "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community," author Gil Robertson invites us to read frank and inspiring essays from performers like Patti LaBelle, Mo’Nique, and Hill Harper; bestselling authors like Randall Robinson and Omar Tyree; political leaders like Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Joycelyn Elders; religious leaders like Rev. Calvin Butts, and many more. The essays include personal accounts and concrete guides for action. They candidly address—among myriad other topics—the impact of AIDS/HIV on family life, the role of the church in combating the disease, and the devastating effect AIDS has had on black women. Available in stores nationwide beginning December 1, 2006, "Not in My Family" is published by Agate Publishing.
Today’s excerpt is from actor Hill Harper and it’s entitled "AIDS: Who Will Step Up?"
As a single, adult male, the key is to practice safe sex no matter who you are with – whether it is a long-standing partner or not. Even with my girlfriend, we practice safe sex.
Condoms aren’t free, so it takes a commitment to use them. If people go around and say that condoms take the fun and spontaneity out of it, they are attaching a false and negative message. I remember when it wasn’t cool to wear seatbelts. Now, it’s not even a thought. People get in the car and buckle up. It not only has to do with laws, but also retraining people’s minds. The same thing has to happen with using condoms. It has to become a necessary part of the whole sexual experience…
Leadership in the black community could do more. There are some church and religious leaders who are also guilty of falsely identifying AIDS as the “gay disease.”
(Rev.) Jesse Jackson is widely respected as a leader but haven’t him and other charismatic leaders get out in front of this issue enough. . In order to draw attention to this disease, it will take the redirection of organizations that once focused only on apartheid to now look at AIDS in Africa.
It will take the voices of Oprah Winfrey, Bill Cosby and Tavis Smiley and others to reach the public.
To reach young people, it will take the artists to get behind the message. They will pay attention to someone like Alicia Keys and those performers who clearly politically active. You’ve got to get someone like The Game or 50 Cent and get them to do a PSA. I think that it is assumed that these artists won’t do them but a lot of them are receptive. It’s about asking people and getting their voice involved.
The good news is that African Americans are survivors and we are going to make it.
Read more in the new book "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community."