While music and cheers blared throughout the Global Village at the International AIDS Conference, a small group of women gathered at the African/Black Diaspora Networking Zone to learn more about HIV. For 20 minutes, the women tuned out the background noise and focused their attention on a short documentary, "Many Women, One Voice: African American Women and HIV."
The documentary, created by Gilead Sciences and the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, highlighted the growing rate of HIV in African American women.
"The film really put things into perspective, and the most important thing was that it provided faces to voices — strong, healthy-looking women who look just like us here," said Elma Kerry, a conference volunteer from Detroit.
African-American women revealed their experiences from the moment they learned they were positive to their everyday living. But the film wasn't just about their personal revelations. Throughout the film, the phrase "It's not about me; it's about somebody else" was constantly repeated. The short documentary was about every African-American woman and the fight against HIV.
Vanessa Johnson, co-founder of the National Women and AIDS Collective, was one of the women featured in the film and a speaker at the conference, which was recently held in D.C. at the Washington Convention Center.
"I'm encouraging those who are willing to spread the discussion, educate our communities and get involved in the fight," Johnson said.
Dr. Marilyn McPherson-Corder, a pediatrician in Washington, works with youth in the metro area. "I tell my young people, 'a tisket, a tasket, a condom or a casket,'" she said. "It's like a nursery rhyme, but they understand the seriousness of the message."
In 2009, the rate of new HIV infections among black women was 15 times that of white women, and more than three times the rate among Hispanic/Latina women, according to the Centers for Disease Control.
After the film, several women walked away from the booth with a commitment to show the DVD and discuss HIV/AIDS in their communities.
Letese Clark is a senior majoring in broadcast journalism and metro editor of "The Hilltop" at Howard University in Washington.