Art is a respected, innovative and engaged community educator and advocate for those infected and affected by HIV. Working with Southern Regional-AHEC as their Bridge Counselor/Care Coordinator. Art is Chair of the Cumberland County HIV Task Force, the National Co-Chair for the Mid-Atlantic region for the Campaign 2 End AIDS, and an active voting Board member of the NC Statewide Community Prevention/Care Group.
stig*ma noun \'stig-m?\ -
: a set of negative and often unfair beliefs that a society or group of people have about something,
: a mark of shame or discredit
: stain (bore the stigma of cowardice)
When thinking about Stigma and what effect it has had upon those infected and affected by the virus I can state my belief that "Stigma" has been the cause of death for many with the virus and the reason for many to have gone to their graves stating that they were living with anything other than HIV/AIDS. The fact that today we still see folks who are kicked out of their homes, family, job and homes due to stigma says we as a community have still not had the honest conversation we need to have when it comes to HIV/AIDS. The fact that African Americans make up 13% of the US total population yet account for over 67% of all new infections in 2013 says we need to break the barriers of STIGMA in our community and find ways to engage in an honest assessment of who we are and how we interact with each other.
Gay, straight, Black, White, Democrat or Republican, Christian, mu slim or nonreligious we need to come to an understanding that we all are each others keeper.
I still smart at the slights I get from others when I disclose my status. Its not as bad as it was yet those hurts continue to eat away at the fiber of who I am ever so slightly. The elephant in the room is always "How did he get it" or "If he had not been living such a sinful life, or "Its "GOD'S punishment. If you have ever thought these thoughts or said these things even in passing to friends then you have helped to fuel the hurt of STIGMA. If you have contributed to any negative conversation when it comes to those living with this disease or have not stopped others from making negative comments then You have helped fuel this hate. This is not about stopping those from practicing their faith or beliefs but it is about upholding the ideals of what your faith states You should. That saying "What would Jesus Do" says it all. We as a community must find common ground if we to ever get a handle on what HIV/AIDS is doing to our family, friends and neighbors. Am I my brothers keeper yes I am and so are you. So I ask those infected and affected to begin a new to find ways to end the burden of HIV/AIDS. I ask that we look at ourselves and see ourselves in those living with this disease. I ask that we give the compassion we would want if we to find out we had a life changing disease.
In closing I say together We can make a difference~~ Together We are Greater than AIDS~~~
The opinions expressed in this blog is that of Mr. Jackson and is not in any way a direct reflection upon the Cumberland County IV Task Force.
Below is a link to an amazing article about stigma written by the powerful Jesse Brooks.