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Campaign Highlights Importance of HIV Testing at Essence Music Festival

HIV and AIDS are having a devastating and disproportionate impact on African Americans. While African Americans represent only 13 percent of the U.S. population, they represented half of all new HIV/AIDS cases reported in 2006. Many African Americans who are infected with HIV do not know it because they have never been tested.

To encourage more African Americans to get tested, the National HIV Testing Mobilization Campaign (NHTMC) participated in the 2008 Essence Music Festival in New Orleans, July 4–6, 2008. The 3-day event brought together more than 200,000 music devotees for performances by Patti LaBelle, Kanye West, Mary J. Blige, and other leading entertainers, as well as empowerment seminars on health, education, and other important issues affecting African Americans. It is touted as the Nation’s largest annual celebration of African American music and culture.

NHTMC Campaign representatives walked through the crowds, distributing HIV testing cards to thousands of festival goers and raising public awareness of the importance of knowing one’s HIV status. A Campaign exhibit booth also displayed the Campaign’s Get Tested for HIV public service announcement featuring Bishop T. D. Jakes, one of the festival’s keynote speakers. This worked well to draw crowd members into conversation about HIV testing.