In the hopes of plucking the HIV and AIDS crisis from the abyss of public apathy, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, with the blessing of the White House, announced Tuesday a five-year nationwide public awareness campaign called "Act Against AIDS."
Though President Obama has expressed his desire to loosen the negative grip that HIV/AIDS has on people's perceptions, the real fuel for this campaign comes from the CDC, in the amount of roughly $45 million.
According to data released by the CDC, in the United States each year, approximately 56,000 people get infected with HIV and more than 14,000 die from AIDS.
The first phase of the program is called "9½ Minutes," that's the frequency with which someone in the United States becomes infected with HIV. To highlight this problem, the CDC has set up www.NineAndaHalfMinutes.org, which has both facts and figures on the HIV infection rate and the resources to address it.
In a press rollout that also included the president's domestic policy advisor, Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of the CDC's center that deals with HIV and AIDS prevention, announced that the impetus for these efforts was the "serious threat to the health of our nation. And that threat is complacency."
The effort to address that complacency and to jolt the public's awareness will include a variety of venues: video, audio, print, online, and even messages on subway cars.
The campaign will focus on the populations most severely affected by HIV, beginning with African-Americans.
In getting their message out, the CDC will team up with 14 African-American organizations, including well-known groups like the NAACP and The National Urban League. The CDC says that though the African American community makes up just 12 percent of the U.S. population, but represents roughly half of the new HIV infections and AIDS deaths every year.
Famed civil and women's rights advocate and chairwoman of the National Council of Negro Women Dorothy Height punctuated the concerns of the African-American community when she said, simply, "This is personal. This is important."
As the five-year campaign continues, other high-risk groups will be targeted like Latinos and other communities "disproportionately impacted," advocates say.