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Mason Discusses HIV/AIDS with L.A. Black Women

by Les Spindle
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Tuesday Jun 19, 2012
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On June 9, distinguished author/activist Terry Angel Mason shared his inspirational message of HIV prevention as the featured speaker at a meeting of the Black Women’s Network’s Health Fair, held at Rogers Park Auditorium in Inglewood, California. Mason’s speech, in the form of an impassioned cautionary anecdote from his new book, "They Say That I Am Broken," provided the centerpiece for a series of informative and superbly detailed speeches by experts in various topics related to the health of African-American women.

"HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on Black women in Los Angeles and around the world," said Mason. "Many women don’t know the status of their partners, and simply aren’t protecting themselves consistently. Education and getting tested is vital to stopping the spread of this disease. My goal is to inspire, motivate, and encourage Black women to get tested and to know the status of all of their partners."

Mason, who also authored the Pulitzer-nominated book "Love Won’t Let Me Be Silent," has been a survivor of full-blown AIDS for many years. This Southern California native has received international acclaim for his incisive books, lectures and political lobbyist efforts, striving to advance urgent social issues.

"The best way to describe me is a creative writer who is also a civil rights activist, exploring political issues," Mason told EDGE prior to the meeting. Topics around which he has raised awareness include homosexuality, gays in the Black church, HIV/AIDS, DADT and gay marriage. "Many of the things I’ve written about are prophetic -- that is, I wrote about them before they happened."

Mason spoke to the BWN on the rising rate of new HIV infections among women in the African-American community. He points out some startling statistics about the rise of HIV infection in Black women over the age of 50. According to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women’s Health Women’s Health, women account for about one in four new HIV/AIDS cases in the U.S. Of these newly infected women, about two in three are African-American, and most contacted HIV from having unprotected sex with a man.

The American Foundation for AIDS Research states that African Americans and Hispanics represent 26 percent of all women in the U.S. but they account for 82 percent of AIDS cases among women. Furthermore, this organization states that all African-American women have an HIV prevalence rate nearly 15 times that of white women.

"HIV/AIDS is having a devastating impact on Black women in Los Angeles and around the world," said Terry Angel Mason. "Many women don’t know the status of their partners, and simply aren’t protecting themselves consistently.

"Ironically, when my first book came out, I didn’t do very much on this topic at all. It’s only been during the last seven months that I’ve been getting into a lot of this, and that’s because I was selected as the National HIV/AIDS spokesperson," said Mason. "When that happened, people started contacting me from all over the U.S. As recently as yesterday, my publicist was contacted, and I was asked to come to New York to do a whole huge campaign on HIV in people over 50. Apparently when they saw this engagement was scheduled here in L.A., they decided to contact me for this."

The fascinating presentations at the event focused on various health issues, many offering statistics and basic background information. Mason took a unique approach when his turn came up. He read a narrative anecdote from his new book, driving home the misconceptions and dangers surrounding the HIV/AIDS blight with hurricane force.

Lavishing the skill of an expert storyteller on his expertly crafted text, Mason related the story of a woman who seemingly had everything going for her -- beauty, intelligence, talent, and charisma -- and for a while seemed to be living a charmed life, including tremendous career success and great wealth. But one mistake made later on took her seemingly perfect life on a different turn, when she foolishly exposed herself to HIV infection. The crowd was deeply moved by this intriguing and tragic story, which imparted an unforgettable message. Mason says there are additional narrative sections in his book, illustrating the specter of HIV/AIDS.

Though all of the topics at the event didn’t directly focus on HIV/AIDS, they provided an excellent supply of data related to women’s health, matters that are vital in terms of overall health management, certainly of benefit to those living with HIV/AIDS. Sheila Jordan, BWN president, introduced the event, providing alternately moving and amusing comments.

Doctoral Candidate Tasha Rae provided a through explanation of various sexually transmitted diseases, clarifying misconceptions and giving an invaluable crash course in the afflictions and how they can be avoided. Dr. Marjorie Skinner Riley gave a brief but detailed explanation of women and menopause.

Crystal Leary articulately explained the types of diabetes and expressed the urgency of caring for the disease, offering some eye-opening examples. Sikizi Allen offered advice on care giving, describing the various instances in which care is needed, and the importance of respecting and properly caring for the patient.

For more info on Mason’s work, visit www.TerryAngelMason.com

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