by: Erica Bryant Updated:
CHARLOTTE, N.C. - A local agency that tracks cases of HIV/AIDs says infection rates among African-American and Latino men are "staggering and not getting better."
The group is trying to raise awareness for World AIDs Day this weekend.
A'Meir Pendarvis remembers the day he learned he is HIV positive.
"It's like my greatest fear was realized," he said.
At 22 years old, he said he knows a lot of teenagers who are infected.
"It's very sad they deal with drug addiction, homelessness, and prostitution. It's a widespread epidemic that no one wants to talk about," Pendarvis said.
At the Powerhouse, Pendarvis said he found a safe space for African-American and Latino youth who are at risk.
"Seventy-six percent of all the newest cases of HIV in our city are same-sex attracted men of color and are youth, so that's 13- to 24-year-olds," said Jermaine Nakia Lee with the Powerhouse Project.
Lee helps run the program, funded by the Centers for Disease Control, focused on education and prevention.
In a new strategy to try to lift the stigma for this population, Powerhouse is presenting a musical to expose the issue to the entire community.
It focuses on four young people in a southern city and their families.
("It's about) how all of them are living with HIV, some of them infected with HIV and some of them affected by HIV," Lee said.
"I went through grieving process, resentment process, anger process," Pendarvis said.
Pendarvis said everyone is indirectly affected by HIV, whether they realize it or not. It affects a city's medical resources and economy, so it's important that everyone tackle it together.
"It's much closer to home than you think it is, so that being said someone who knows nothing about this community it's a good idea to broaden your perception of things or your awareness, because someday it could be you," Pendarvis said.
The production is called "A Walk in my Shoes," and is part of a citywide observance of World AIDs Day on Sunday. There are free shows Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Johnson C. Smith University. They are not recommended for children under age 13.
For more information on the show and the program, click here.