The fourth annual Red Pump Project Soiree in D.C., one of the organization's premier cities (Red Pump)
The fourth annual Red Pump Project Soiree in D.C., one of the organization's premier cities (Red Pump)

Passionate about raising awareness on the impact of HIV/AIDS for young girls and women, The Red Pump Project held its fourth annual D.C. Red Summer Soiree, in conjunction with the upcoming National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

With more than 1.1 million people within the U.S. living with HIV/AIDS and almost 280,000 of them women, Nigerian author, speaker, digital strategist Luvvie Ajayi advocated destigmatize stereotypes surrounding HIV/AIDS during the annual event/fundraiser.

“One critical issue concerning HIV/AIDS is the stigma that is often attached to people that have it,” said Ajayi, founder of the organization created in 2009. “So many people are still living in silence out of fear and out of shame and that silence is literally killing them. In college I actually knew somebody who had 20 cousins all orphaned by HIV in Malawi, because all of their parents had died from the ailment.

“Through the Red Pump Project, I hope to normalize the conversation and make it that much easier for people to talk about this with their partner or children or communities, so that other people who have it don’t feel like something is wrong them or that they are missing something,” she said.

In the United States, every 47 minutes a woman will be diagnosed with HIV. More times than not, that woman will also be of color.

Symbolizing the strength and courage of females affected by HIV/AIDS, moderator to the June 17 event, Essence senior editor Charreah K. Jackson emphasized the importance of celebrating Red Pump and its national, yet communal, meaning.

“I am actually a cancer survivor, so I know what it is like to face an ailment that I didn’t necessarily have control over,” Jackson said. “I love what the Red Pump Project stands for. It is such an extraordinary organization complied of strong women, organizing their power to say ‘How can we shine a light on this important issue?’

“The reality that we as people can have a future without HIV/AIDS is so exciting and empowering and once I started reading up on all of the work they do, I knew I had to be a part,” she said.

To learn more about The Red Pump or to donate, visit theredpumpproject.org.

Lauren M. Poteat

Lauren Poteat is a versatile writer with a strong background in communications and media experience with an additional background in education and development.

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