The African-American community can no longer afford to think of HIV as just a “gay, white male disease”. HIV is a crisis that we, the African-American community, have ignored for far too long.

The startling truth is that Black people currently represent about half of all people living with HIV in this country. Our women account for 69 percent of new female HIV infections. Thirty percent of AIDS related deaths that occur are among African-Americans. It is estimated that nearly 46 percent of Black men who have sex with men are HIV positive. And, there are currently 2.5 million children worldwide, under the age of 15, living with HIV/AIDS.

I was personally diagnosed with HIV in 1994 during my senior year of high school. I was 17 years old, headed to college and looking forward to a long and fulfilling life. All of my dreams, however, were shattered in the instant when I received this life-altering bit of bad news. The unfortunate reality, however, is that on top of all of the other hardships that young African-Americans face in our lives today, HIV is a crises that many of us have to add to that burden. In fact, two-thirds of HIV infections that occur among adolescents between the ages of 13 and 19 are African-American youth.

The terms genocide and conspiracy are frequently tossed around and considered as it relates to our people and HIV. At this stage in the game, however, my thoughts on those accusations are irrelevant. I have made a conscious decision to focus all of my energy on raising awareness within our community and making sure that not another one of my brothers or sisters becomes infected and has to suffer the way that I have from this curse.

THE TIME IS NOW to get involved. I am writing to urge you, my people, to take ownership of this deadly virus that is reeking havoc on our communities and make a small step towards change.

We must all learn more about HIV vaccine trials. We need to stand up and determine the fate of our lives by participating in an endeavor that could very well determine the future of our race as a whole. We must attack this epidemic with the sense of urgency that Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., Malcolm X or Harriet Tubman would have.

Get involved, NOW.

Keith R. Green