LOS ANGELES (January 11, 2019) AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is proud to commemorate the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday observed on January 15 by participating in MLK parades and hosting free HIV awareness and testing events in more than a dozen U.S. cities across the country, including Los Angeles and San Francisco, CA; Washington, DC; Ft. Lauderdale and Miami, FL; Atlanta, GA; Chicago, IL; Baton Rouge, LA; Dayton and Cleveland, OH; Biloxi and Jackson, MS; Greensboro and Winston-Salem, NC; New York, NY; Columbia and Holly Hill, SC; and Dallas and Ft. Worth, TX.
The full list of AHF’s MLK Day activities can be found at www.AHFParticipate.org
AHF kicked off the new year by dedicating its 2018 Rose Parade float to mark the 50th anniversary of the assassination of MLK. King was fatally shot at age 39 by escaped fugitive James Earl Ray on a balcony at the Lorraine Motel in Memphis, Tennessee, on April 4, 1968. AHF’s 55-foot-long float recreated the “Stone of Hope” granite statue of MLK that is located on the National Mall in Washington, DC and the Edmund Pettus Bridge in Selma, AL that King, Congressman John Lewis and other civil rights activists attempted to march across on March 9, 1965 before they were attacked by armed policemen in what came to be known as “Bloody Sunday.”
This year’s float riders included AHF Keep The Promise Youth Essay Contest Winners Lilia ‘Sweet Lily’ King (Tallahassee, FL) and Kibiriti Majuto (Charlottesville, VA); Rev. Kelvin Sauls, Senior Pastor, Holman United Methodist Church in Los Angeles and member of AHF’s Board of Directors; Susan Bro, mother of Heather Heyer, who was killed in Charlottesville, VA during a protest against an organized white supremacist demonstration; Alfred Wilson, co-founder and executive director of the Heather Heyer Foundation; and Cynthia Davis, MPH, Chair of AHF’s Board of Directors, who was interviewed by KTLA’s Gayle Anderson about this year’s float. Each Keep The Promise Youth Essay Contest winner received a $5,000 scholarship or grant for community projects; the two runners-up, received $1,000 grants from the Heather Heyer Foundation.
“As we honor the contributions of Martin Luther King Jr. and his enduring legacy that has inspired social movements around the world, we also remember the many others who have also lost their lives standing against hate and bigotry, including Heather Heyer who was killed during the horrifying white supremacist demonstration in Charlottesville last August,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein. “In cities across the country, we’re proud to march alongside activists and community leaders who are committed to seeing the full realization of Dr. King’s vision of justice and equality in our nation today.”
As African American and Latino communities continue to be disproportionately impacted by HIV/AIDS in the United States, AHF advocates and its MLK parade contingents will continue to promote the message that “AIDS Is A Civil Rights Issue” and that access to care and treatment for HIV/AIDS should be a universal human right. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 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. 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.