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women urged to take charge of AIDS fight

women urged to take charge of AIDS fight

The Los Angeles-based Black AIDS Institute and other groups last week held the first national conference focused on AIDS and black women in America.

As of 2002, AIDS was the leading cause of death for African-American women ages 25 to 35. According to a Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report released last month, African-Americans are eight times more likely than whites to be HIV-positive, even though the rate of newly reported HIV cases among blacks has dropped. African-Americans accounted for 68% of newly diagnosed female HIV cases last year, according to the CDC.

"I see each week at least one woman that is newly infected that says she doesn't have a clue about how that happened," Celia Maxwell, director of Howard University's Women's Health Institute, said at a press conference.

"Every single person in this room, get tested," urged actress Gloria Reuben, who played an HIV-positive woman on TV's ER.

"I want us to stop being shocked; shocked into silence," said Rep. Maxine Waters, a California Democrat.

Hydeia Broadbent, who was born with HIV infection, said when she tells her story to young people, she notes that the medicines that keep her alive cost almost $2,500 a month. "No kid wants to spend their money on meds," she said.

Officials remarked that the press conference coincided with the 50th anniversary of the day Rosa Parks refused to give up her bus seat to a white man. "For black people in America today, the bus is AIDS," said BAI executive director Phill Wilson, but instead of giving up a bus seat, "we are being told to give up our lives." (AP)

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