Telluride AIDS Benefit: Aiding Brother Jeff
[“click “Play” to hear Brother Jeff speak about his partnership with TAB]
The relationship between the Telluride AIDS Benefit and Brother Jeff is a prime example of the whole being greater than the sums of its parts.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, the HIV/AIDS epidemic in African American communities is a public health crisis. While African Americans represent approximately 12 percent of the U.S. population, they continue to account for a higher proportion, nearly 50 percent, of cases at all stages of HIV/AIDS — from infection with HIV to death with AIDS. (African American women represent 60% of all new cases of HIV in women.) The reasons are complex, but stigma, distrust of authority, fear, alienation and myth loom large. Among the myths Brother Jeff has to battle in his constituency:
• AIDS is a gay disease.
• HIV comes from mosquitoes, polio vaccines, the government (to kill all African Americans), baptismal water
• It’s not going to happen to me
• A person can’t get AIDS through oral or anal sex
Brother Jeff has a long history of community activism. In 1995, he founded Brother Jeff’s Cultural Center, an alternative to gangs, drugs and violence, fostering education, arts, culture and adult interaction in young lives. In 2000, he founded the Initiative to combat an underground killer ravishing his already challenged Denver community. Today the Initiative is a leading resource and paradigm for fighting HIV/AIDS, its reach extending beyond Brother Jeff’s neighborhood, beyond Colorado, across the country. The organization has even made inroads in Africa, in part thanks to The Telluride AIDS Benefit, which has thrown its hat into the ring alongside Brother Jeff’s Stetson.
TAB has helped Brother Jeff others in a variety of ways, but mostly it is the fact TAB funds come free of charge from hiring HIV positive individuals as speakers, peer role models and outreach workers to developing HIV ministries and interfaith collaborations, essential to the dissemination of information in the African American community. TAB enables leadership academies, support groups, counseling, testing and referrals, case management and more.
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