A Penny for Your Time, a Dollar or Five for Someone's Life

The night before I started tenth grade my mother called and gave me the worst news of my life; my grandmother was diagnosed HIV positive and from that moment, my entire family lives changed. A little over three years later my aunt Danielle was forced to tell me what she couldn't  my grandmother had lost her fight with AIDS. Once again, my family’s lives were changed. Twenty years ago AIDS was a death sentence, but there have been remarkable strides in awareness, education, research and treatment that have reduced rates of new infections and provided a better quality of life to many of those fighting this deadly virus.

Two years before my grandmother’s diagnosis, Magic Johnson revealed to the world that he was HIV positive and nearly 22 years later, he continues his fight to educate the world while he’s created an empire away from sports. Magic’s story is not my grandmother’s story. Nor is it the story most of the one million people living in America with HIV or AIDS. The fear attached to HIV/AIDS has decreased through the years; in part because of the triumphs Magic has continued to achieve since his announcement and partly because of the advancement in treatment through the years. We've grown through the infantile stages of the virus and for some reason the stigma associated with it seems to have dissipated with the years. Yes, people with HIV and AIDS are living longer, but that’s no cause to continue to engage in the high-risk activity that may expose you to the disease.

According to the CDC, there were 80,000 new cases of HIV/AIDS in 2011 and African-Americans accounted for half of the newly HIV infected. For our community, the fight never ends; we must continue to educate ourselves and others about the dangers of HIV and AIDS, as well as continue to be a voice in the conversations about awareness, research and treatment. Organizations and websites such as, Greatherthan.org, AIDS.org, UNAIDS.org, the Red Cross and any thousand others are valuable resources to arm yourself with the latest stats, research and ways for you to get involved.

My family has continued the fight we started with my grandmother twenty years ago and subsequently other family members by starting the Delia Mae Gordon AIDS Foundation, through which we intend to raise awareness and money for research and education. Tomorrow (May 5th), we’re participating in New Jersey AIDS Walk 2013 and we’re asking for your help. You can join the thousands walking through Branch Brook Park in Newark or the remaining locations (Atlantic City, Asbury Park, Morristown or Ridgewood), find an AIDS Walk near you at AIDSwalk.net or support our team here. Additionally, you can spread the word and live responsibly, be most importantly, do something!

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