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Efforts to end ‘black HIV/AIDS epidemic’ focus on prevention

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On National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention is pressing for an end to a health epidemic that disproportionately affects African Americans.

According to the CDC, African Americans make up just 14 percent of the total U.S. population, but account for nearly half of all HIV/AIDS cases in the country.

At current infection rates, one in 16 African-American men will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime, and one in 32 African-American women will contract the virus.

Many factors account for such a high rate among African-Americans, but more resources are available now than ever before, said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC’s National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD, and TB Prevention.

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Why we must respond to the HIV crisis among African Americans in the South

Charles StephensBoth tragedy and triumph have shaped and contoured the South as determinedly as the red clay dirt and the thick humidity.  While African-Americans have certainly made progress, one only has to look at the HIV/AIDS rates among African-Americans in the South, particularly the Deep South, to see that there is still a considerable distance to travel.

The needle has moved yes, but so has the need. If HIV/AIDS is to be addressed among African-Americans, the South has to be prioritized.

Statistics show that African-Americans are disproportionately impacted by HIV in the United States. Despite being only 14 percent of our country's population in 2009, African Americans accounted for 44 percent of all new HIV infections in that year.

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Dire HIV numbers demand new responses for gay men

Staggering HIV numbers in the African-American community

Uri Butler is a natural in front of the camera. His tall, lanky frame and soft features project confidence, love, happiness — all easily captured by a professional photographer.

Butler, 20, said he’s thought of being a model and quickly scans through his cell phone to show photos of him posing in other shoots. Right now, though, he is a junior majoring in biology at Fort Valley State University, located about 90 miles south of Atlanta, and dreams of becoming a nurse.

But on Aug. 13, Butler took a break from his studies to pose for the Evolution Project’s new media campaign, set to launch in September to reach out to black, gay young men about HIV prevention. The Evolution Center, a project of AID Atlanta located on Juniper Street, offers programming and resources as well as HIV testing specifically aimed at black gay men.

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Black Gay Pride celebrates past, looks to the future

Black Gay Pride press conference

Labor Day weekend brings tens of thousands to Atlanta for what is billed as the world’s largest Black Gay Pride. This year’s festivities will have added impact, as the nonprofit In the Life Atlanta celebrates 15 years of bringing cultural and educational events to the massive celebration.

In the Life Atlanta formed in 1996 to create a community component to Black Gay Pride, which began as an informal network of house parties, nightlife and other gatherings. This year, ITLA’s packed schedule of events focuses on the theme “A Crystal Ball” to mark the organization’s crystal anniversary.

“The overarching theme for our anniversary this year is ‘In the present, learning from the past to shape the future.’ We chose the crystal ball because it’s been 15 years; 15 is the crystal year,” explained ITLA President Raymond Duke.

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Spelman College offers summit focused on LGBT issues at historically black colleges

Beverly Daniel Tatum, President of Spelman College

Spelman College will host a summit this Friday, April 29, examining gender and sexual politics at historically black colleges. The summit is being organized by the university's Women's Research and Resource Center.

“The summit is the culminating activity of a three-year advocacy project that engaged 11 HBCUs on the particular experiences of LGBT students, faculty and staff in an attempt to facilitate institutional change that acknowledges, values and respects difference,” Spelman noted on a web page for the summit.

The goal, according to organizers, is to present findings of the advocacy project and discuss strategies for creating inclusive campus environments. There will be four panel discussions, as well as a screening of the film “Bursting With Light” made by Spelman graduate Taryn Lee Crenshaw.

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Lesbian play ‘Walk Like a Man’ in Atlanta on Saturday

Laurinda Brown

Representations of lesbians tend to be rare onstage, much less African-American lesbians, but the play “Walk Like a Man” – returning to Atlanta Saturday for a one day gig —has a cast full of women and LGBTQ themes.

“Walk Like a Man” is adapted from Laurinda D. Brown’s book of the same name, a set of short stories which won a 2006 Lambda Literary Award. It deals, via dramatic monologues and vignettes, with issues such as same-sex domestic violence, gay parenting, rape, runaway youth, “Don’t Ask, Don’t Tell,” inter-office affairs, new love/romance and HIV/AIDS.

In all, the book featured more than 20 stories; nine of the characters Brown wrote about are featured in the stage version. Shortly after the book’s release, the play was adapted and performed at D.C. Pride. It later became the first African-American lesbian-produced play to be performed Off-Broadway.

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New projects target HIV couples testing, lesbian ‘stud’ health

Tynesha Wells (left) and Cole Thomas attended the first of many focus groups as part of the Stud Health Project that is being organized by the Atlanta Lesbian Health Initiative

Tynesha Wells, 39, has not been to a gynecologist in two years although she knows it is important for her health to do so.

As a self-identified stud, Wells said she does not like facing the strange looks that sometimes come when she enters a doctor’s office dressed like a man.

“When I have gone they haven’t been sensitive at all,” Wells said about past experiences at a gynecologist’s office. “I know health wise I need it but do I want to go through the humiliating process to do it. You’re already in a vulnerable situation.”

Wells’ partner is feminine and doesn’t feel uncomfortable going for her annual exam.