Grammy Award-winning artist and advocate Alicia Keys rallied with community leaders and residents of Harlem yesterday, hosting a community conversation aimed at tackling the issue of HIV/AIDS.
Hosted by Harlem Hospital together with Greater Than AIDS, Ms. Keys was joined by Congressman Charlie Rangel (D-NY); Denise Soares, the Executive Director of Harlem Hospital; Minister Vin Baker of the Abyssinian Baptist Church in Harlem; Dr. Helene Gayle; Russell Simmons; and Greater Than AIDS ambassador Stephanie Brown, in an open and honest discussion with residents of Harlem about HIV/AIDS, its impact in the community, and the stigma that often surrounds the disease.
In Harlem, as nationally, people of color have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS. The large majority of people living with HIV in Harlem are Black or Hispanic. In 2011, the most current year data is available, the rate of HIV diagnosis per 100,000 population was 4 to 5 times higher in Harlem as compared to the nation overall.
Speaking to an energetic crowd of over 400 at Harlem Hospital, the speakers stressed the urgency of addressing HIV/AIDS in communities of color. The event brought together different parts of the community– faith and political leaders, social and health care advocates, artists and young people – to break down the barriers of stigma, fear and ignorance and promote HIV testing and treatment for those who are positive. Following the community conversation, Alicia Keys, Congressman Rangel and Dr. Gayle joined with community residents to get tested as part of a free on-site HIV screening being offered by Harlem Hospital.