By Danielle Anguiano
Carl Jenkins, a retired teacher, has been living with AIDS for the past 19 years. He credits sustained care, caring doctors and social workers with his survival.
“I came along when the retroviral medications came and I was able to get on that medication and I have been taking that medication faithfully since being diagnosed,” Jenkins said, during last week’s Black/African-American AIDS/HIV Awareness day. “Now my viral load is suppressed.
“What really helped were caring physicians and their supportive staff like social workers and counselors that encouraged me that I could survive.”
Jenkins joined health officials, activists and politicians in calling for increased HIV and AIDS testing to tackle racial and socioeconomic disparities of the disease during last week’s press conference on Black/African-American AIDS/HIV Awareness day at Miles Square Health Center on the Near West Side.
Atara Young, chair of the Westside HIV/AIDS regional planning council, said, African-Americans account for 44 percent of the HIV cases.
“Lives matter, black lives matter,” Young said Friday at the event. “We need to address salient issues around poverty and health care.”
According to state Rep. La Shawn Ford the 8th District Democrat, who spoke at the event, health organizations face additional obstacles in the battle against HIV/AIDS due to lack of funding.
“One tool we have to help people living with HIV in the African-American community is the African-American HIV/AIDS Response act,” Ford said. “The state has cut the funds for the African-American HIV/AIDS Response act, so we have to do everything we can to regain the funding.”
The CEO of Mile Square Health Center, Henry Taylor, also emphasized the importance of funding and increased testing from healthcare facilities.
“It’s not a request for additional [funding], but to keep things whole, so agencies that are providing the care and services today can continue to do so going forward,” Taylor said. “I think increased awareness is important but also if we can move toward a practice where there is universal screening and testing in all of the health care facilities.”
At the press conference, Rep. Danny Davis, D-Ill., said raising awareness about HIV/AIDS is also the best way to honor Black History month and the 50th anniversary of Community Health Centers.
“When I see all these HIV/AIDS activists, all of them engaged in the community, and when I see my good friend, state Rep. La Shawn Ford, I know that we will march on until the victory is won,” Davis said.