Erica Hubbard from BET’s hit sitcom “Let’s Stay Together” joined forces recently with the Chicago-based Urban Wellness Project at Salon Heavy to celebrate the National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
“It’s so important to get to the doctor like maybe every six months and keep checking on your well-being and your health because if you don’t care no one else will care,” a teary-eyed Hubbard told the crowd during the “Safe is Sexy, Sexy is Safe” themed event.
In 2009, Blacks accounted for 49 percent –– 7,892 –– of the 16,010 HIV cases diagnosed in Illinois and 50 percent –– 18,667 –– of the 37,370 AIDS cases diagnosed in the state. Forty-nine percent of the 60,000 Illinois residents with HIV are Black, according to the Illinois Dept. of Public Health.
Dr. Mildred Williamson, chief HIV/AIDS officer of the Illinois Dept. of Public Health, said, “About 79 percent of all new infections are passed by people who don’t know they’re HIV positive so it’s important for everyone to learn their status.”
Hubbard’s foundation, The Erica Hubbard Foundation, and Syreeta Talbert, founder and executive director of Urban Wellness, partnered up to educate young Chicagoans in a non-conventional way.
Attendees received free testing, educational information and makeovers, and were treated to performances by singer Melody Angel and poets Mama Brenda and London A’Lexus.
The Chicago native’s foundation instills morals and helps motivate young people to remain optimistic so they can control their future.
Talbert said many women find the subject of HIV/AIDS taboo, and education is crucial.
“I think a lot of women don’t want to take it because they’re scared to find out whatever the results are because they think they’ll totally change their lives,” said Talbert.
And, from discussions she has with teen girls from a South Side high school, Talbert realized many girls see a lot of sex on television, but they don’t fully understand the details of the HIV virus.
“They hear the terminology thrown around but to really understand that it just takes that one time is what I’m finding that they don’t understand,” said Talbert.
Jenaun Armstrong, a freshman at Tennessee State University who attended the event with her mother, said she knows an elementary school-aged girl who is sexually active and believes hearing the message about HIV/AIDS from someone who has the virus or disease is key.
“That’s going to show her, okay I need to stop doing what I’m doing so I don’t become like that; I think they need the end result in front of their face,” said Armstrong, who got tested along with her mother.
Hubbard –– who grew up near 87th Street and Jeffery Boulevard –– recalled few organizations like Urban Wellness that helped her South Side community and has always been passionate about helping the youth.
Seeing them live in poverty and/or have low self-esteem has always encouraged her to volunteer. She believes that unity within the community comes when everyone works together, she said.
“I’m passionate about it for the simple fact because when I was growing up there weren’t that many organizations that I knew about that would come to the community and help out,” Hubbard told the Defender.
Talbert notices when talking to young girls they’re more receptive towards her due to her youthful appearance, which she takes advantage of. She also uses a more direct approach.
“I’m more in your face. I definitely tell the girls that ‘if a guy is really feeling you [then] before you lay down with him say in a conversation, let’s go get an AIDS test and if he hesitates for a quick moment, [well] is that somebody you want to be with?’” said Talbert.
Copyright 2011 Chicago Defender