Cesar Chavez, Martin Luther King Jr. Grace AHF’s New ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ Miami Billboards

In News by AHF

As African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS, AHF expands its ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ billboard & awareness campaign featuring MLK Jr. to also include Cesar Chavez, the labor leader and farm worker movement icon, in new Miami double billboard.

Campaign suggests access to HIV prevention, care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be universal.

MIAMI (March 7 2014) On the heels of the successful launch of its “AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue” national awareness campaign which featured events throughout February in Jackson, Mississippi; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Dallas and Los Angeles, AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is now stepping up the campaign by expanding the reach and imagery of the billboard component of the outreach. The campaign—which initially featured billboards with artwork consisting of a stylized, artistic rendering of civil rights icon Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. with the headline, ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’—is expanding to include similar artwork featuring Cesar Chavez, the respected labor leader, civil rights activist and farm worker movement icon with the tagline, ‘SIDA, cuestíon de derechos humanos.’ This latest phase of the campaign features a new MLK, Jr./Cesar Chavez double billboard debuting today in Miami in a high visibility area alongside Route I-95 (three-tenths of a mile north of I-395).

“As African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS compared with their respective percentages of the overall population, these AHF ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ billboards serve as a reminder of this disparity while also suggesting that access to HIV prevention, care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be a universal human right,” said Michael Weinstein, President of AIDS Healthcare Foundation. “By expanding and supplementing the initial Dr. King billboard with this new Cesar Chavez billboard, we honor the memory of these civil rights leaders in a effort to address current—and significant—health disparities among Latinos and Blacks with regard to HIV/AIDS. Through our overall campaign, we are also opening a frank dialogue with key stakeholders in the community, the public health arena, faith-based groups, with public officials as well as with the general public to better address these health disparities.”

Currently African Americans account for 44% of all people with HIV/AIDS in the United States, yet only account for 12% of the population. Latinos account for 21% of all new HIV infections nationwide, yet only represent 16% of the U.S. population. According to Kaiser Family Foundation HIV/AIDS Fact Sheets, as of March 2013, there were more than 1.1 million people living with HIV in the U.S., including approximately 510,000 African Americans and 220,000 Latinos. And as of 2011, Florida has the second highest rate of new HIV infections in the nation. And new HIV diagnoses are concentrated primarily in large U.S. metropolitan areas (81% in 2011), with New York, Los Angeles, and Miami topping the list, making AHF’s billboard placement in Miami all the more resonant.

AHF’s launch of the ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ public awareness campaign coincided with Black History Month as well as this year’s 50th anniversary of the Civil Rights Act of 1964. As part of the campaign launch, AHF teamed with Reverend Al Sharpton, who served as keynote speaker at community forums in each of the four initial locations: Jackson, Baton Rouge, Dallas and Los Angeles. Sharpton’s speech (or sermon in L.A., which also featured a church service) was followed by an ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ panel discussion with respected local community, political, health, religious and HIV/AIDS leaders from each city lending their voices and participation.

Disproportionately high numbers of HIV/AIDS cases among communities of color may be caused by several factors, including:

  • Lack of access to clinics for care and HIV testing, as well as to condoms and safer sex educational opportunities.
  • High levels of stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS in these communities prevent people from learning their HIV status, or from seeking care and speaking honestly with their sexual partners if they know they are positive.
  • Both society and the healthcare industry have marginalized members of these communities both on account of sexual orientation and race, blocking essential treatment, care, and education for those who need it.

Background on Cesar Chavez

According to the Cesar Chavez Foundation, Chavez was, “A true American hero, Cesar was a civil rights, Latino and farm labor leader; a genuinely religious and spiritual figure; a community organizer and social entrepreneur; a champion of militant nonviolent social change; and a crusader for the environment and consumer rights.

A first-generation American, he was born on March 31, 1927, near his family’s small homestead in the North Gila River Valley outside Yuma, Arizona. At age 11, his family lost their farm during the Great Depression and became migrant farm workers. Throughout his youth and into adulthood, Cesar traveled the migrant streams throughout California laboring in the fields, orchards and vineyards, where he was exposed to the hardships and injustices of farm worker life.”

‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ Nationwide Billboard Campaign

The initial ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ billboard campaign featuring the image of MLK, Jr. has been running in Atlanta, Washington, DC; Columbus, Ohio; Baton Rouge, Louisiana; Jackson, Mississippi South Florida and in Los Angeles, where AHF partnered on the campaign with the group with In The Meantime Men whose mission is, “…to enrich, empower, and extend the lives of intergenerational black men, respectful of sexual orientation, through social, educational, health and wellness programs and services.” In most of the cities, the campaign will also be posted as transit shelter ads. 

In addition to the Miami area, the Cesar Chavez version of the ‘AIDS is a Civil Rights Issue’ billboard will also run in the Los Angeles market starting March 17th.

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