Philadelphia Alumnae Hosts World AIDS Day podcast

Submitted by Concetta Lilly and Trina McLaine

The International Awareness & Involvement (IA&I) Committee of the Philadelphia Alumnae Chapter (PAC) collaborated with Femme Noir Files to present a podcast for World AIDS Day 2021 titled “Ending the HIV Epidemic, Equitable Access, Everyone’s Voice.” The podcast began with an introduction by Co-Chair, Concetta Lilly, followed by remarks from President, Dr. Penny Sparks Nixon. Soror Nixon emphasized that although the world has made significant progress in combatting HIV/AIDS, important global targets have not been met. In addition, COVID 19 has exacerbated inequities and disruption to services.

Femme Noir Files is a weekly podcast moderated by three sorority members who “offer a unique perspective to what black, xennial women experience in these yet to be United States.” The moderators introduced the panelists: Dr. Kimberly Brown, National Field Director specializing in Infectious Diseases at Janssen Research and Dr. Loretta Sweet Jemmott. Vice President, Drexel University Health and Health Equity. Dr. Brown is a member of Quaker City Alumnae and Dr. Sweet Jemmott is a member of Alpha Kappa Alpha Sorority, Inc.

It is unbelievable that the first HIV case surfaced about 40 years ago. Although we are still in the midst of this epidemic, there have been tremendous advances and new breakthroughs are on the horizon. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is a highly effective medication that at-risk persons take to prevent HIV. In the near future, a super long acting injectable will also be available in the prevention of HIV.  Dr. Sweet Jemmott emphasized that although there are medications and treatments available, we need to concern ourselves with making sure our community has access to these medications and treatments. The theme, “Everyone’s Voice,” comes into play when we empower our sisters and brothers with the voice and the knowledge to articulate and advocate for themselves. Dr. Brown expressed how important clinical trials are, and that we must close the equity gap by standing up and doing our due diligence to ensure there is data collected from black and brown people.

Collegiate members, Shaquanda Washington of Cheyney University, and Damaayah Stephens of Temple University joined the panel to provide a generational perspective. Both expressed that their schools have some HIV programs, but indicated that HIV/AIDS information should be more readily available. Data has shown that HIV cases are higher on college campuses.
The ultimate question is, “What can be done to end the transmission of this epidemic and what role can we play”? The answers included, spread awareness, ensure we have equitable care, provide more support groups, address health disparities and keep up with the facts. The CDC website is an excellent resource for HIV/AIDS information. Communication is the key; we need to talk to our children, partners, community, and each other to make sure we are all on the same page with the information and resources available. Having the hard conversations of being tested will reduce the stigma surrounding HIV without running the risk of downplaying its seriousness.

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