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Campaign to raise awareness of HIV testing draws ire of Dallas lawmaker

Wednesday, June 19, 2013
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DALLAS — A campaign to increase awareness of HIV infections has one Dallas city council member fuming.

Vonciel Jones Hill, who once stated that “all people are created equal under God, but there are acts that God does not bless,” is angry about a billboard promoting public education about HIV.

KDFW-TV

The billboard, visible along one of the city’s major thoroughfares, depicts a black male couple and the message, “Update Your status.” According to Hill, the billboard touts “African American men who engage in homosexual conduct as acceptable.”

But Dallas County Health and Human Services Director Zachary Thompson disagrees, and says the billboards are not promoting a lifestyle, but targeting those who are most impacted.

A report released in 2011 by the Dallas County Health and Human Services Department revealed that the new infections rate among the city’s black community had increased to nearly half of all newly reported infections.

The report also noted that county’s rate of HIV infection was the highest in the state of Texas and that the rate was disproportionately higher among African-American men who have sex with men.

Hill, who was first elected in 2007, has had an adversarial relationship with the city’s LGBT population, despite the fact that Dallas’ largest LGBT neighborhood is located in her council district.

Hill has repeatedly refused to attend annual LGBT Pride events, and in 2010 told the Dallas Voice, “I won’t be participating [this year], and based on my present beliefs, I won’t be participating in the future. There’s no reason I should be castigated for that.”

The billboard campaign is co-sponsored by the non-profit organization Greater Than AIDS, which recently helped DCHHS launch the public education campaign Dallas>AIDS.

The organization is also spreading the word to remind citizens that June 27 is National HIV Testing Day, listing educational resources and a means of locating testing sites and care services.

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