Campus & Community

Harvard student groups rally to launch inaugural AIDS summit

2 min read

In an effort to inspire a new wave of dialogue, action, and service among youth in the fight against HIV/AIDS, students from the Harvard Black Men’s Forum (BMF), the Harvard AIDS Coalition (HAC), the Harvard African Students’ Association (HASA), and the Harvard Concert Commission (HCC) will be co-hosting, for the first time, the Unite Against AIDS Summit: HIV/AIDS in Africa and the African Diaspora. Taking place April 22-23, the summit is the culmination of years of planning between the student groups on how to get more youth involved in the battle against HIV/AIDS. The summit has a particular focus on mobilizing black youth, who, despite being the demographic group most affected by the disease, are severely underrepresented in advocacy and service concerning the epidemic.

The centerpiece of the weekend will be a conference touching on a wide range of topics, from the African orphan crisis to international security issues caused by the disease. Other panels include “A Man’s World?: HIV/AIDS, Masculinity, and Sexuality in the Black World,” which will address such issues as misogyny in hip-hop and the “down low” phenomenon, and “While We Were Sleeping: AIDS and the Breakdown of Black Politics,” which will explore the response, or lack thereof, of blacks in the United States to the HIV/AIDS crisis at home and abroad.

Among the 30-plus speakers expected to attend are the Rev. Eugene Rivers of the National Ten Point Coalition, Jeffrey Johnson of the Hip-Hop Summit Action Network, and Lori Heise, director of the Global Campaign for Microbicides. The keynote address will be delivered by Jonathan Perry, an HIV-positive black college student activist who has appeared on “The Oprah Winfrey Show” and been profiled by CNN and The New York Times.

Launching the summit weekend will be a concert featuring multiplatinum hip-hop artists Lloyd Banks and Fabolous. Hosted by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, the concert is open only to Boston-area college students and registered attendees of the summit, which will conclude with a semiformal gala fundraiser.

The Unite Against AIDS Summit has been made possible by financial support from the Office of the President of Harvard University, the Harvard Undergraduate Council, the Dean’s Office, and a $10,000 grant from the Henry J. Kaiser Family Foundation.