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AIDS activist unveils rowboat for Atlantic Ocean trip

New York City
AIDS activist unveils rowboat for Atlantic Ocean trip

An AIDS activist plans to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean later this year to draw attention to the high rate of HIV among the U.S. blacks.

Victor Mooney's first attempt two years ago ended less than two hours after he started from the coast of Senegal when his boat leaked. But he says he is better prepared now and determined to succeed.

''It's important that I continue this quest, because this disease is preventable,'' he said Wednesday, also National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. He lost a brother to AIDS, and another brother has HIV.

Mooney, 41, wants to be the first black person to row solo across the Atlantic. He plans to follow the transatlantic slave-trade route that brought blacks to the Americas from Africa and to connect the AIDS plight of the continents.

His route from Goree Island, Senegal--once a prison and auction site for slaves bound for the Americas--to the Caribbean will begin December 1, World AIDS Day.

''You're rowing 16 to 18 hours a day, two hours at a time, with a half-hour break,'' he said. ''Depending on weather conditions, you can anchor and sleep while going with the current if it's favorable.''

His new boat will be professionally built and equipped with a satellite telephone, emergency beacons and a tracking service.

Solo rows across the Atlantic Ocean are notoriously perilous, with fewer than 50 people having completed the journey, according to the England-based Ocean Rowing Society.

''Sometimes you don't make it on the first attempt, but you keep trying,'' Mooney said.

More than half of all newly diagnosed infections of HIV in the United States have been documented in the black population, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty-seven percent of the approximately 1 million U.S. residents who have HIV are black, according to 2005 CDC statistics. (AP)

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