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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.