Event aims to educate community on HIV /?AIDS

WARREN – More than 30 are residents packed into the basement of the ACOP Center on Saturday to listen to a presentation by Dr. Kimberly Jackson on HIV / AIDS in the African-American community.

“Almost 50 percent of new diagnoses are African-American,” Jackson said. “We’re the ones dying of this.”

Thursday is National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day.

Jackson, of Humility of Mary Health Partners, said she hasn’t seen too much of a problem locally with AIDS, but but she also said that often there are no symptoms.

“The difficulty is there can be no symptoms. If you don’t think something is wrong, are you going to see your doctor?” she said.

Jackson included numerous statistics on the impact AIDS has on the black community. In 2007, more than 17,000 African-Americans diagnosed with AIDS died from it.

Jackson urged those in attendance to be each other’s “keeper,” break the stigma surrounding AIDS / HIV awareness, and talk about it with those around them.

The event was hosted by the Warren branch of the NAACP.

”One of the challenges is making the community aware of the epidemic,” Annette McCoy, president of the Warren NAACP, said.

The event included a short dance recital by the Ball sisters, ages 10 to 16. McCoy said it was just as important to her for these girls to be able to see Jackson as an example of a successful black woman as it was for them to hear her presentation.

Donna Penn of Warren, the grandmother of the three Ball sisters, said she believes it is up to the parents to educate their children. She said it was the approach she took with her children.

“Parents need to take charge in making sure their children are taught properly,” Penn said.

Icephine C. McNeal, 86, of Warren, said she thought the presentation was excellent, but that the younger generation that needs to hear about AIDS don’t care to attend.

“The people that should be aware of it,” McNeal said, “don’t show up. This young generation doesn’t care.”

The event was the first of the year for the Warren NAACP. McCoy said there will be several other health events throughout the year.