Pioneer In HIV/AIDS Fight Looks To Spread Testing Message

“I want to be clear to the community that I’ve seen the response to our lives at every level and I can tell them assuredly that everyone did not want us to live and be healthy and safe. That’s not everyone’s goal, so it’s got to be ours.” For more than two decades, Debra Fraser-Howse has made the improved health of Black people a personal and career goal. Since her days in the early 1980s as an emerging leader working for the New York Urban League, Fraser-Howse has become widely recognized for her global leadership to communities of color for her work around teenage pregnancy, social welfare, and HIV and AIDS.

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In 1987, Fraser-Howze founded what was then known as the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS to find strategies to address HIV prevention in the Black community. Now operating under the name National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (NBLCA), the organization conducts policy, research, and advocacy on HIV and AIDS.

One of her last major actions prior to retiring from NBLCA was to pull together 186 of the country’s most powerful Black clergy to write a legislative bill that would put money into the Black community for education and support around HIV and AIDS. She’s proud to say that the bill is still going through Congress and believes it has a chance to pass.

In her current role as Senior Vice President of Government and External Affairs at OraSure Technologies, Fraser-Howse continues to serve as an advocate in the fight against HIV and AIDS. The pioneer recently spoke with  to reflect on the the state of HIV and AIDS in the Black community and how we can change the face of statistics.

On prevention and reducing the rate of new HIV infections:

“The first thing, of course, is get tested. Everybody get tested. I firmly believe that the only way out of this epidemic is to test our way out.

“When I first founded [NBLCA] in 1987 there was no rapid test. There was no way you could just go and get tested, just walk into your local health department.”

“Getting tested is so much easier now. You can go to a community-based organization; you can get tested at any health fair and event; and, you can buy a test and test yourself at home. So, there’s no excuse at this point for our community to have so many new infections every year when we can test ourselves out of this.”

On the need for more HIV/AIDS eduction from women over 50: 

“Black women over the age of 50 are still getting impacted by this disease because they don’t know how to…

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