The Plano North Metroplex (TX) Chapter of The Links Incorporated, in partnership with The Links Foundation, Gilead Sciences, Collin County NAACP, Paul Quinn College, Minnie’s Food Pantry, Hamilton Park United Methodist Women’s Ministry and The Dallas Examiner will host the first-ever, Collin County Virtual HIV Town Hall, 7:00 p.m., Thursday, October 28, 2021; Let’s Talk Session for Youth, Thursday, November 4, 2021; Let’s Talk Session for Women, Tuesday, November 16, 2021, and celebrate World AIDS Day, Wednesday, December 1, 2021.
LINKS HELP HIV events represent a proactive campaign to provide national and local HIV data, as well as informational sessions and resources to protect residents and illustrate the impact of the epidemic on the community.
The collaborative hopes to reach people within the North Texas area, specifically young adults, and women, who are among the most vulnerable populations.
“This is a ground-breaking opportunity for Collin County and North Texas as educational, nonprofit, media, healthcare and faith-based organizations partner to educate communities of color on the prevention and spread of HIV,” said Michelle Moses-Meeks, President, Plano North Metroplex (TX) Chapter of The Links, Inc.
The historic series of virtual events is a result of a grant from The Links, Foundation and Gilead Sciences and is a national call to action to inform communities of color and protect and prevent the rising effects of HIV.
“I have championed this cause in the DFW Metroplex for over 40 years. I am looking forward to bringing our thought leaders together for an informative and much needed town hall discussion,” said Mollie Belt, HistoryMaker and Publisher-CEO of The Dallas Examiner.
The informative series of events focuses on protection and prevention of the spread of HIV in Collin County and North Texas.
“We believe the Links HELP HIV collaboration provides an excellent platform for expanding the conversation and partnership with community-based organizations in North Texas to combat the HIV epidemic,” said Dr. Allison Mathews, Executive Director of Gilead COMPASS Faith Coordinating Center.
Around 1.1 million people are living with HIV in the United States of America (USA). Nearly one in seven of these people are unaware they have HIV.
The size of the HIV epidemic is relatively small compared to the country’s population but is heavily concentrated among several key affected populations. Around 70% of annual new HIV infections occur among gay and other men who have sex with men (sometimes referred to as MSM), among whom African American/Black men are most affected, followed by Latino/Hispanic men.
Heterosexual African American/Black women and transgender women of all ethnicities are also disproportionately affected.
The USA is the greatest funder of the global response to HIV, but also has an on-going HIV epidemic itself, with around 37,600 new infections a year. HIV affects locations differently as well, so we’ve compiled the cities with highest rates in the nation. *
Baltimore, Maryland – 24.3
According to GetTested.com, HIV infection rates in Baltimore are on the rise due to a lack of education. HIV is a lifelong infection that, if left untreated, can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), according toHIV.gov.
AIDS occurs when a person’s immune system becomes damaged, and people who are diagnosed with AIDS typically survive about three years.
Jacksonville, Florida – 25.1
Although Jacksonville isn’t thought of as a “party city” like other destinations on GetTested.com’s list, the site suggests that “The number of businesspeople and tourists who travel to Jacksonville,” might contribute to the high rates of HIV diagnoses and prevalence there. Forty-four percent of people diagnosed with HIV live in the South, even though the region only contains about a third of the U.S. population. Aside from Baltimore, all of the cities on GetTested.com’s list are in the South.
Columbia, South Carolina – 25.6
South Carolina’s Channel 10 WISTV.com reports that poverty, rural geography, lack of affordable healthcare and social stigma all contribute to the prevalence of HIV in the South. “Researchers say being a part of the ‘Bible Belt’ adds to the stigma,” they report, meaning that in some cases, a diagnosed person might not seek treatment due to fear of rejection from the religious community. Careteam+, a South Carolina non-profit healthcare provider, tells WISTV.com that they’ve lately been able to refer 500 percent more patients to specialized care thanks to the Affordable Care Act.
With antiretroviral therapy, someone who is HIV-positive can keep the illness under control and reduce their risk of infecting others.
Atlanta, Georgia – 25.9
Moving down the list from number 4 last year to number seven this year, more than 1,000 people are diagnosed with HIV each year in Atlanta. What’s even more interesting is that 50 percent of those people aren’t diagnosed until they already have AIDS.
Within the first two to four weeks of infection, some people experience flu-like symptoms, such as fever, chills, rash, night sweats, and fatigue, according to HIV.gov.
Others don’t show any symptoms at all, and about one in eight Americans with HIV don’t know that they have it. The only way to know if you have AIDS is to get tested. There are tons of places you can go to do this, including Planned Parenthood, medical clinics, hospitals, and substance-abuse treatment programs.
Memphis, Tennessee – 27.6
“A particularly concerning statistic from 2014 shows that about 2,000 people in Memphis who have the disease are not aware of it,” GetTested.com reports. “So they may continue to spread the infection.”
African American gay and bisexual men are most affected by HIV, according to HIV.gov, followed by white gay and bisexual men. Heterosexual contact accounted for24 percent of all diagnoses in 2015, and 6 percent of infections were the result of injection drug use.
Orlando, Florida – 28.8
According to the CDC, the rate of HIV diagnoses in Orlando decreased slightly (0.9 percent) from 2013-2015. New HIV infections appear to be declining globally as well. December 1 marked the 28th World AIDS Day, and according to AIDS.gov, “the vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries.”
Most people in these regions still don’t have access to prevention, treatment and care programs, and only 60 percent of the 36.7 million people living with HIV/AIDS know their status. Since the Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief passed in 2003, the U.S. has spent more than $50 billion to test and treat people for HIV in sub-Saharan Africa, NPR reports. Other organizations, like U2 front man Bono’s (RED), are targeting mainstream audiences to raise awareness around the issue.
Jackson, Mississippi – 32.2
GetTested.com reports that in Jackson, there is “a concerted effort to inform the public about the PrEP pill.” Did you know there’s a pill out there that can actually prevent you from becoming infected with HIV even if you have sex with someone who is HIV-positive?
Pre-exposure prophylaxis, a daily medication, can do just that, according to WhatisPrEP.org.
New Orleans, Louisiana – 36.9
An excess of 19,000 people in Louisiana are living with HIV. More than half of those people have AIDS. Although African Americans make up only 32 percent of the state population, they represented 73 percent of the state’s new cases in 2011, according to the Louisiana Department of Health.
The LDH urges Louisi-anians to get tested. “If people with HIV have the virus diagnosed early, they are able to receive treatment and care early enough to delay the onset of AIDS,” LDH Office of Publish Health Assistant Secretary J.T. Lane says in a press release.
Miami, Florida – 42.8
In 2015, Miami had the highest rate of HIV diagnoses in the country. It also had the highest prevalence of the disease at the end of 2014, according to the CDC. It speculates that the city’s high HIV rates may be due to its culture.
So which city is number one? It may come as a surprise to some, but the number one city in the United States is…
Baton Rouge, Louisiana – 44.7
Baton Rouge claimed the No. 1 spot. It’s reported that many of the infections there “are due to shared needles since the city is the center of a massive opiate addiction issue.”
The CDC provides a list of steps you can take to protect yourself and your loved ones from HIV. Educate yourself by visiting the CDC website, talk about what you learn with friends and loved ones, and empower people by sharing your knowledge on social media.
So what cities are the ones with the lowest HIV rates?
According to the CDC, the prevalence of HIV within non-metropolitan districts of the U.S. runs at around 112.1 cases per 100,000. Of the 107 cities included in its 2015 report, only six fell beneath this threshold:
Boise, Idaho (71.7)
Rapid City, Michigan (100.1)
Fayetteville, Arkansas (108.8)
3.Madison, Wisconsin (110)
Ogden, Utah (48.6)
Provo, Utah (26.9)
By contrast, the 10 U.S. cities with the lowest rate of new HIV infections are:
*These numbers are based on the latest data compiled in 2019.
Record high attendance leads to dozens of COVID-19 vaccinations and hundreds tested for HIV
A record number of visitors converged on Dallas this weekend to celebrate gay pride month and the Juneteenth holiday, pumping millions of dollars into the local economy. The event, sponsored in part by Dallas Southern Pride (DSP), was billed as “Juneteenth Unity Weekend.”
Early estimates indicate at least 20,000 people poured into the region, filling local hotels, restaurants and shops. They were treated to three days of events, a block party and pool party as well as health screenings. Event organizers also vaccinated nearly 100 attendees against COVID-19.
“We are beyond pleased with this year’s unprecedented turnout for Dallas Southern Pride,” said lead event organizer Kirk Myers. “I want to thank everyone who traveled to our beloved Dallas to participate in this year’s Juneteenth celebration just days after the historic vote to make it a federal holiday. I also want to thank Dallas city leaders and the Dallas Police Department for partnering with us to make this record-breaking event safe and enjoyable,” Myers said.
This year’s event also marked many firsts, including:
HIV positivity rate drops below 10 percent among more than 200 attendees tested
50 attendees sign up for the HIV prevention drug PrEP
Dallas flies official gay pride flag over Dallas police headquarters
The Dallas Police Department held a recruitment drive targeting LGBTQ applicants
The Dallas skyline was lighted in the Juneteenth and Black Pride colors
The Dallas Southern Pride Official Pride flag is debuted and flown for the first time at the Sheraton Market Center.
The three-day DSP event was also a shot in the arm to the area economy, including:
Generating an estimated $2.2 million in revenue for local businesses hit hard by a nearly year-long pandemic shut down
Employing hundreds of “gig workers” previously sidelined by the corona virus pandemic
The Sheraton Suites Market Center Dallas host hotel and two overflow hotels sell out
More than two dozen vendors—the largest number in the event’s history— participate in the block party
This year’s massive success is a testament to the enormous trust our supporters have given us. That’s why planning is already underway for the 2022 Dallas Southern Pride/ Juneteenth celebration, when we hope to welcome even more visitors to our great city.
Dallas Southern Pride dates back to 1997 when a small group of Black LGBTQ friends gathered to celebrate and uplift each other. In 2016, Juneteenth was included in the celebration to honor the essence and spirit of Black culture.