Ethical and spiritual values, as well as social responsibility, compel me to call attention to an epidemic that is wreaking havoc in communities across this country and around the world. Although the HIV/AIDS epidemic affects everyone, it is having a particularly devastating impact on communities of color and for individuals living in poverty.
Data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention indicate that nearly half (46 percent) of the new cases of HIV/AIDS are African-Americans. Of the new cases reported, more than 70 percent are caused by individuals who do not know their HIV status.
A recent report titled "Passing the Test: The Challenges and Opportunities of HIV Testing in Black America" identifies four factors that hinder progress in controlling the disease. Those factors include: the stigma of being harmed if test results are positive; testing as a part of medical exams is not routine; the continued requirement of written consent in many states; and the failure of effective marketing efforts to promote testing.
Starting today -- World AIDS Day -- and ending Sunday, Dec. 6, every person in Augusta will have multiple opportunities to become educated regarding this issue; to show support for individuals who have HIV or AIDS; and to be an advocate for addressing this public health concern. I encourage everyone to participate in activities that have been planned by a diverse group of organizations to promote HIV prevention in Augusta.
As academics, advocates and good neighbors, I hope that we will all do our parts personally and professionally to eradicate this horrific disease in our community. A call to action includes educating oneself, protecting yourself and praying for all who have been touched by HIV/AIDS.
I join with all leaders who understand how important it is to raise awareness about this disease and to support prevention efforts.
Knowing your HIV status is a right and responsibility. Knowing your partner's HIV status can save your life. I have been tested. Have you?
Dr. George C. Bradley
(The writer is president of Paine College in Augusta.)