African Americans represent 14% of the U.S. population but reportedly account for 44% of new HIV infections, making young, Black, gay and bisexual men among those at highest-risk for infection
LOS ANGELES (February 8, 2013)—In recognition of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, In The Meantime Men’s Group, Inc. (ITMT), LA’s premier Black Gay Men’s Wellness organization, hosted a series of events and activities starting, Tuesday, February 5, 2013 and concluding on Sunday, February 10, 2013.
Among the events were a protest and press conference held adjacent to Leimert Park in South Los Angeles on February 7 to unveil ‘X Homophobia’, a new anti-homophobia campaign. In The Meantime, which spearheaded the new campaign, hosted the press conference, protest and street outreach in conjunction with AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF). The groups staged a peaceful protest and press conference while launching the new advocacy and awareness campaign that is intended to bring light to the devastating impact of homophobia in the Black community including HIV/AIDS. Immediately following the press conference from 11:30am to 12:30pm the groups offered free HIV testing as well as condom distribution to businesses and people along Crenshaw Blvd. As part of the event, AHF’s 53 foot long ‘Condom Nation’ big rig was onsite—and covered with In the Meantime’s groundbreaking new ‘Our Love is Worth Protecting-Get Tested” billboard art, which features two handsome young shirtless African American men embracing.
“It is in the best interest of our survival as Black people that we better access the limitless resources of all of our people,” said Jeffrey King, Executive Director of In The Meantime Men’s Group, Inc. “Unless we start today to build a society that celebrates diversity we are doomed, and thousands of human beings will continue to live in fear that breeds contempt and hatred. As we enter 2013, it is incumbent upon each of us to stretch over to the other side of our communities and better understand who is in our houses, our neighborhoods, our schools, our churches. We are all divine children of God and we have been birthed with the capacity to Love unconditionally.”
“Although African Americans represent just 14% of the U.S. population, they account for 44% of new HIV infections. Sadly, young, Black gay and bisexual men are among those at highest risk for infection,” said Michael Weinstein, President of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “This is one reason why a campaign like ‘X-Homophobia’ is so crucial in getting the word out and pushing back against prejudice and fears that may interfere with young people getting tested, using condoms or taking other preventive measures to remain HIV-negative, or get linked into care should they test HIV-positive. We applaud In the Meantime for this innovative campaign and will work with them to spread the message that homophobia, racism and HIV can’t stop them in their mission.”
In addition to the press conference, protest and street outreach on Thursday, ITMT is coordinating a series of other events and activities as part of its ‘Code Red: Sound the Alarm’ campaign roll out. The group has drafted an online ‘X-Homophobia’ pledge to counter homophobia, fear and discrimination. The pledge reads:
TAKE THE PLEDGE:
The X-Homophobia Pledge
I, _________________, pledge that as an activist against discrimination and an ambassador of peace, I will:
- Support my gay brothers, fathers, sons, and friends
- Respect people whose sexual orientation, identity, and expression is different from my own
- Engage in affirming dialogue regarding people whose sexual identity differs from my own
- Teach my networks and my community that the gay community is our community too
- Help to eradicate Homophobia
Other events and activities that are part of In the Meantime’s ‘Code Red: Sound the Alarm’ included “Preaching to the Choir,” a candlelit vigil that hosted community members, elected officials, community activists and partnering agencies, which was held at ITMT’s Kickback Wellness Center on Pico Blvd. Additionally, the group’s staff canvassed Long Beach, Watts, Compton, Inglewood, and the Crenshaw Corridor with their mobile testing units providing HIV tests and information to the black community there.
On the eve of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day beginning at 11 p.m., ITMT’s BoiRevolution crew joined AHF’s Condom Nation team to distribute condoms and information in Club Magnum in West Hollywood. Also at the Club Magnum event, tickets for a Rihanna concert were raffled off and free HIV tests were provided in mobile testing units outside of the club. The event was replicated the following Sunday, February 10, at West Hollywood’s Club Eleven.