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Jesse Jackson Launches Campaign to Raise Awareness of  AIDS - 2002-07-24

The head of one of the largest civil rights groups in the United States wants African-Americans to get tested for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. Jesse Jackson made the call Tuesday in Chicago, at the annual Rainbow-PUSH Coalition conference.

Since the mid-1990s, the number of people dying from AIDS-related complications in the United States has declined, but in recent years the number of people infected with HIV has been rising, especially in poor and minority communities. In Chicago Tuesday, Rainbow-PUSH Coalition head Jesse Jackson set a goal of having one million African-Americans tested for HIV this year. "Taking the test is the first bold step in correction." he said.

Because a person can have HIV and not know it, he or she can unknowingly spread the virus to others.

AIDS was the theme of the day Tuesday at the annual Rainbow-PUSH conference, both in the United States and overseas. Nigerian first lady Stella Obasanjo said more than 28 million people in Africa have AIDS. She called it a problem more devastating than the slave trade and European colonization combined.

"Our people, who have most desperate needs for economic and social stability, are sadly the very victims of a rampaging disease with the capacity to wipe out the bulk of our young people," she said.