Mississippi has one of the highest rates of HIV and AIDS infection in the nation, with African Americans accounting for more that 77 percent of all newly diagnosed cases. But one of the nations most active advocates for HIV and AIDS testing is urging residents to get checked.
Hall of Fame basketball player, Magic Johnson, is urging students at Jackson State University to get tested for HIV and AIDS. Johnson, who used to play for the LA Lakers, was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, and has become an outspoken advocate for HIV/AIDS testing ever since.
"Understand that HIV and AIDS is out here in a big way in our community," Johnson says. "We're still number one in all of the cases, men, women, children. So educate your mind when it comes to that. Educate your partner when it comes to that. It is very important."
Jackson Mayor Tony Yarber says Johnson's advocacy is a boon to a city that has the fourth highest rate of infection among metropolitan areas in the nation.
"I had a sister who passed as a result of HIV," says Yarber. "So, ladies and gentlemen, I do want to challenge you to stand shoulder to shoulder with us as we battle this disease and help people to understand that it is in their though process that we win."
Kennis Jefferson is with Building Bridges Incorporated, a non-profit organization dedicated to preventing HIV/AIDS infection in Jackson. While he appreciates Magic Johnson's advocacy he says it's not particularly affective.
"From my experience it doesn't have that much of an effect," says Jefferson. "We try to do a lot of work with church ministries, health ministries. We've actually been able to get into a few churches like that. We've been able to get out onto the streets actually giving out condoms. When giving out condoms we actually let them know that we do testing, and as far as the testing we're just trying to put a face to it out on the streets."
Residents can get testing or learn more about HIV and AIDS at any county health clinic for free.