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 today, "Not in My Family" is published by Agate Publishing.

Today’s excerpt is from California Congresswoman Barbara Lee and it’s entitled "AIDS: Time to Break the Silence."

HIV/AIDS is devastating our community, and unless we stand up and fight for our right to live, we will continue to suffer and die because of this preventable and treatable disease.

We know that African Americans are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS.   We know that African American women are increasingly bearing the brunt of this disease – so much so that AIDS is the leading cause of death for African American women between the ages of 24-34…

We know the low down about the down low-men leading double-lives, having sex with other men and passing the virus onto women-and we’ve gotten over the hype.

We know that our so-called "criminal system" is breaking apart the black family by sending our men to prison to serve as the entry point for HIV, Hepatitis C and other diseases into our communities.

We also know, and the statistics show, that our kids are the ones most at risk of getting infected. 

In short, we know what the problem is.  Now we have to act. We have to mobilize ourselves, our families, our friends, our church leaders, our communities, and our government to take action.

It is time to break the silence! 

We can begin by rejecting the stigma and embracing and showing compassion for those who are already living with HIV/AIDS.  As our beloved, the late Coretta Scott King said:

"To eradicate AIDS, we must first and foremost cure our own hearts of the fear and ignorance that leads to the ostracism of people with HIV and AIDS. The real shame falls not on the people with AIDS, but on those who would deny their humanity."

Read more in the new book "Not in My Family: AIDS in the African American Community."

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