Gordon, along with NAACP Chair Julian Bond, made headline news when they got a rapid HIV test at an on-site testing center and returned after 20 minutes for the results, a move that HIV/AIDS advocates praised.
I am glad that the issue of HIV/AIDS in the Black community is getting the much needed attention it deserves, but I still remain a bit cynical about the manner in which the issue is being addressed.
In my opinion, the reason why churches and traditional Black community based organizations like the NAACP and others have jumped on the HIV/AIDS is bandwagon is because of the rapid numbers of Black women contracting the disease. I’m sorry, let me make that straight Black women. Let’s be real here. Black gay men were dying from HIV/AIDS from the onset and the Black community continued on as business as usual. But now that the Black woman is in danger, we can manage to get out act together to save her. After all she got it from the down low brother in the first place. Right? Wrong.
All the HIV/AIDS prevention messaging in the world isn’t going to save Black folk until we discuss the issues that continue to divide us. Homophobia is more rampant than ever in our respective communities and in my opinion, it does all of us no good to try and save one half of our population from contracting AIDS while doing virtually nothing for the other half.
But like I said, that’s my two cents.
Continue reading to check out Gordon’s speech.
Excerpt from NAACP President Bruce Gordon’s Address at annual conference:
We opened this convention — some of you were here, some of you were not — we opened this convention on Saturday with a focus on HIV/AIDS. Simply stated, let’s not say this fancy: HIV/AIDS is killing our community. It’s killing us. And so that I’m clear, I’m not talking about the problem in Africa. It’s there. It’s been there. I’m talking about the problem right outside this convention door, where one out of seven residents, men, black men, in the District of Columbia, are HIV positive. One out of seven in the nation’s capitol, in the richest country in the world, most developed country in the world, we say. And right outside of these convention hall doors, one out of seven black men are infected with HIV. And what’s happening, they are giving it to our women. And that means eventually it finds its way to our children.
The NAACP is casting a vote. We’re going to give a whole new term to pro life. We’re pro life when it comes to HIV. We are not going to kill ourselves. We’re not going to do it. Now, last night, the Chairman was very clear in terms of long-standing commitment of the NAACP as an advocacy organization. We are that. And let me quote, "The mission of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People is to insure the political, education, social and economic equality of rights of all persons, and to eliminate racial hatred and racial discrimination."
That mission is as appropriate today as it was the day that it was written. Nothing’s changed, but if you connect that to our health advocacy symposium this past Saturday which was entitled, "A State of Emergency, Our Emergency, The HIV/AIDS Crisis in the Black Community," we’re going to be accountable advocates who advocate for change in our communities. We’re not going to ask for permission. It doesn’t take somebody’s approval. These are our families. These are our people. These are our communities, and we’re going to put our programs in place and make it happen, which means — which means, we start with testing. We’re going to test. You’re a little silent on this.
Let’s be honest with one another. We’ve got to think about this AIDS thing. We’re going to have to talk about it. The church doesn’t seem to want to talk about it. We’ve got to deal with this issue, which meant that as soon as our exhibits opened, the first three people who showed up in the AIDS testing booth was your chairman, and your vice-chairwoman, and your president and CEO; we got tested on Saturday.
And if any one of you walks out of this convention at the end of this week and you have not gone to that floor and not gotten tested, you have failed to do your duty to your community and to this organization. We all have to do it, and here’s why, here’s why. Nobody questions whether a woman should go get a PAP smear to get diagnosed for cervical cancer. Nobody questions whether a woman should get a mammogram to check out her vulnerability to breast cancer. And the men in the audience know, we better be real careful about our PSA level because we don’t want prostate cancer. No stigma about that, because breast cancer will kill you, and cervical cancer will kill you, and prostate cancer will kill you, and HIV/AIDS will kill you. It will kill you, so what’s wrong with getting tested? What’s wrong with sending the signal to everyone that that’s what we need to do?
Your organization is going to lead the fight, and we’re going to turn it around, we’re going to reverse the trend of the spread of HIV/AIDS in our community. We own it, we’re accountable for it, and we’re going to do it, and we’re going to advocate for it throughout our community. Trust me, believe me, it will be done.
We’re also partners with Bill Duke, and he has prepared a documentary called, "Faces." You need to see it. You need to understand it, and we’re going to spread it, because the story’s real clear when you watch the faces in that story. But we’re going to advocate on the Hill too because there is the Ryan White Comprehensive Resources AIDS Emergency Act, and if it is not reauthorized, the funds are going to run dry. And a lot of the programs in place that provide primary health care and support services for people living with HIV/AIDS is going to dry up. So we’re going to advocate inside and we’re going to advocate on the Hill, and we’re going to take on HIV/AIDS because the NAACP is pro life.