Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Silence STILL = Death: Be Vocal About HIV/AIDS in Plainfield

There were several moments during the Plainfield City Council’s agenda session and special meeting this past Monday evening (December 27, 2010) that puzzled me—including Mayor Sharon Robinson-Briggs’s two attempts (in violation of the law) to have the videographer stop the recording of the meeting/edit the record. 

I want to mention just one of those moments. At one point during the meeting, the mayor stated that her reason for wanting the camera stopped was so that she could provide those of us in the room with the statistics on current rates of HIV/AIDS infection in Plainfield. Why this public information would be deemed too delicate for the sensibilities of Plainfielders who watch the meetings on PCTV is beyond me. 

Remember the “Silence=Death” slogan from the 1980s and 1990s? It was very effective—the focus was on being LOUD about HIV/AIDS. What the mayor should have done, in my view, was not only make her comments ON CAMERA, but put those stats on the city’s website, sound the clarion, and even record a PSA on the alarming rates of infection among our population—frankly, it’s not too late to do so.

The time for delicate sensibilities is over—we need to be vocal, especially since Plainfield is one of the top ten cities in the numbers of HIV/AIDS cases reported in New Jersey. I work in Newark, where the rates of HIV/AIDS are astronomical; indeed, in the United States,it is the leading cause of death of black women aged 25-34 years. At Essex County College, where I teach and also serve as a member of the Urban Issues Institute’s Steering Committee (along with Plainfield’s own Christian Estevez), the Institute hosted an HIV/AIDS Awareness Week during the first week of December (World AIDS Day is December 1). 

Folks got tested, educational materials were distributed, we screened documentary filmmaker Cyrille Phipps’s Seen But Not Heard: AIDS, Sexual Politics, and the Untold War Against Black Women, and seminars and forums were held at the college throughout the week. We have done similar events at ECC in the past, partnering with other organizations located in Newark and Essex County.  

In Plainfield, it would have been great to have at least held an observance of World AIDS Day, some sort of acknowledgment of the suffering, and a commitment to increasing awareness, especially among our young people, among whose population we have seen the fastest rising rates of infection.  Well, although World AIDS Day has passed, we have another opportunity to get it right in Plainfield. 

Monday, February 7, 2011 is Black AIDS Awareness Day—observed during Black History Month—but certainly not precluding the idea of raising awareness among all ethnicities in the nation. I would like to propose that the city and the school district hold a formal observance of this day, and educate our young people on prevention, as well as offering information for those who are living with HIV/AIDS, as well as those who are or will be caregivers. 

Here are the statistics on HIV/AIDS in Plainfield, New Jersey from the state’s IMPACT (Intensive Mobilization to Promote AIDS Awareness through Community-based Technologies) Initiative (as of December 31, 2009). The IMPACT Initiative is “… a city-by-city community mobilization initiative designed to galvanize and support African American leaders to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in cities with the highest prevalence of HIV/AIDS.” (from the NJDHSS web site)

If the mayor has numbers/statistics more alarming than these, I think it behooves her to disseminate them as widely as possible and as quickly as possible. Silence still equals death.
Below are some links to additional information on HIV/AIDS.

All best,



Anonymous said...

Rebecca: I actually wrote a fairly comprehensive feature about this very topic back in May, and I thought it flew a bit under the radar at the time. Here's a link to it if anyone would care to read; the digital formatting is a bit off but the material is all there.


Prof. Williams said...

I remember that, Mark--thanks for posting again!


Blackdog said...

The Plainfield Health Center has been an area leader in the treatment of HIV/Aids and local outfits such as HomeFirst not only help the HIV/Aids patients , but those in the family affected by the disease!

Anonymous said...

Good Morning Ms. Williams,

I think its very important to know that the mayor have been relying on Dan Williamson, Aseemblymen Green, Al Restano and others to do the budget. I know for a fact that they have not contacted the City Adminstrator Mrs Taylor to help. Mr Mapp this lay off plan will not be fair to the entire city of plainfield. The mayor is only looking to save her own people whom sshe supports. I hope that the council please demand or reach out to the AG office because whats going on in the city of plaonfield is illegal. Please help us get Mrs Taylor back so all employees in plainfield can be treated fair.

January 15, 2011 4:34 AM