Stephanie Tubbs Jones, who died five years ago this week, would have shouted, “Hallelujah!” and maybe even punched the air for emphasis.
Her exuberance and energy helped speed progressive and positive change on issues as diverse as prison inmate re-entry initiatives and predatory lending practices.
But it is her legacy as an advocate for HIV/AIDS prevention that truly demonstrates the compassion and courage of a woman who led by example.
In 1998, the former Cuyahoga County prosecutor and the first black woman from Ohio elected to the U.S. House of Representatives joined the national campaign “Got AIDS?”, and was publicly tested for HIV.
Early detection, as well as smart preventative behavior, are key strategies in fighting the public health scourge. Tubbs Jones challenged everyone and especially black women — a group hard hit by HIV/AIDS — to get tested and know their status.
The AIDS Taskforce of Greater Cleveland, an affiliate of the AIDS Healthcare Foundation, will honor Tubbs Jones — who died of a ruptured brain aneurysm five years ago Tuesday — with an all-day Keep the Promise to Women event this Thursday, Aug. 22.
There are 4,702 people known to be living with HIV/AIDS in Cuyahoga County, 3,235 of whom live in Cleveland, according to the city’s Department of Health.
On Thursday, there will be six free HIV testing sites across Greater Cleveland for both women and men. The Stephanie Tubbs Jones Health Center in East Cleveland will provide testing from 9 a.m. until noon; the Free Clinic on Euclid Avenue in Cleveland will offer free tests from noon to 7 p.m.; the Care Alliance Health Center, 1530 St. Clair Ave., Cleveland, will test from 8:30 a.m. until 3:30 p.m., the AIDS Taskforce in Cleveland, 4700 Prospect Ave., will test from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m.; and the Call & Post newspaper in Shaker Heights will host tests from 9 a.m. until 1 p.m. There also will be a testing site at the Lakewood Park Women’s Pavilion, 14532 Lake Ave., from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m.
The day will also be for education and engagement.
U.S. Rep. Marcia Fudge, who now serves the 11th Congressional District once represented by her friend Tubbs Jones, will be joined by faith leaders and community advocates in calling on Congress to reauthorize the Ryan White Care Act, which funds HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment programs.
That event will be held at 10:30 a.m. Thursday at the Stephanie Tubbs-Jones Transit Center, 2110 Prospect Ave., in Cleveland.
Join them and Tubbs Jones, who most certainly will be there in spirit.