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People are ‘called to action’ at state HIV awareness event

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INDIANAPOLIS—Singer and HIV activist Jamar Rogers spoke recently at the 9th Annual Statewide HIV Awareness Program at Crispus Attucks Medical Magnet School, in an effort to raise awareness about HIV/AIDS. The event’s theme, “It’s your turn to prevent HIV/AIDS: Individual Call to Action,” focused on HIV prevention and early intervention.

The event was free and open to the public, but was widely attended by students from several area high schools, including Warren Central, Shortridge and Herron.

“This event gives youth in our community the opportunity to see the real faces of HIV,” said Lynn Smith, Bureau Chief of Critical Populations for the Indiana Division of Mental Health and Addiction, Family and Social Services Administration. “Jamar did an excellent job of not sugar coating what it is like to live with HIV. His speech really resonated with the students.”

Rogers first appeared on American Idol and then became a finalist on The Voice. While on The Voice, Rogers announced he was HIV positive. At the event, Rogers talked about the importance of self respect, self love and having a purpose in one’s life. He has been living with HIV for almost seven years. Rogers also encouraged attendees to know their self worth and inspired them to take control of their lives.

“It’s time to love yourself,” said Rogers. “You will not be the new faces of HIV.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, every nine-and-a-half minutes, another person becomes infected with HIV in the United States. Youths, ages 13 to 29, accounted for 39 percent of all new HIV infections in 2009.

More than 10,000 Hoosiers are currently living with HIV/AIDS, a pandemic that has ended the lives of almost 6,000 Hoosiers since 1981.

Other performers at the event included HIV activist and poet Devin T. Robinson, and singers Nicole Michelle and Mariano Lantigua.

Debra Stanley, Founder and Executive Director of Imani Unidad, was honored at the event with the “2012 HIV/AIDS Outstanding Service Award” for her advocacy efforts over the years to reduce HIV/AIDS in Indiana.

“Healthy decisions last a lifetime,” said Smith. “If the event empowered one youth and prevented one HIV infection, it was a success.”

The event is sponsored through the collaborative effort of the Indiana Family & Social Services Administration, the Indiana State Department of Health, the Indiana Minority Health Coalition and other community organizations.

To find an HIV or other sexually transmitted disease testing site near you,  visit hivtest.org. 

To learn more about HIV/AIDS in Indiana, visit the Indiana State Department of Health’s website at StateHealth.in.gov.

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