National Council of Negro Women, Inc hosts the Red Shoe HIV/AIDS Awareness Dinner

Kandace Thomas, Freelance Journalist

A parade of men weaved in between tables, showing off their red sneakers and loafers, all competing for the title of Mr. Red Shoe Extraordinaire.

While their kicks were the subject of pageantry for the moment, a look around the place at Frost Bank Tower had everyone seeing red. After a year off, National Council of Negro Women, Incorporated (NCNW) held their Red Shoe Dinner. The dinner to raise awareness and funds for HIV/AIDS.

Men and women dressed from head to toe in crimsons, candy apple reds and scarlets. Some ensembles head-to-toe, others simply used the red shoe as an accent piece.

As the prospective Mr. Red Shoe contestants marched through the venue, eyes fixated on the red shoes as they took strides across the room. A reminder for the strides we as a society, and a community made so far in the fight against HIV and AIDS. Empty shoes, beautiful bedazzled ruby shaded pumps, and men dress shoes served as centerpieces, a stark contrast and reminder for how far we still need to go.

The theme of the 2017 dinner; HIV/AIDS no respecter of age/creed/nationality, religious beliefs, or economic status. The disease does not discriminate, but statistics do show a disproportional effect on Black Women in America.

Black women make up 12% of the US Population, yet the CDC said they are 45% of the HIV Diagnoses in the USA. A litter closer to home, 10% of San Antonio’s population is black women, but they account for 3 out of 10 new HIV cases in the city.  Those are numbers activists say can be slashed with prevention and education.

Throughout the evening guests heard the stories of men and women who were diagnosed with the disease that was once considered a ‘death sentence.’ Their stories a testament to medical advancements that can make the disease undetectable.

Michelle Durham, Executive Director of BEAT-AIDS Coalition Trust, in San Antonio said with early enough intervention, men and women with HIV can live long healthy lives. In Durham’s speech she said BEAT-AIDS offers testing and insures infected people get the immediate care they need. The process is called continuous coverage. After diagnosis a member of the non-profit works not only to find a doctor but will attend the appointment and provide emotional support. BEAT AIDS serves 15,000 people in Bexar and surrounding counties each year.

With the prevalence of online dating apps, some epidemiologists fear that HIV rates will rise. According to San Antonio Metro Health between 2014 and 2015, new cases rose 8 percent in Bexar County. Kenneth Slavin, Vice President, at San Antonio AIDS Foundation encouraged the crowd to always assume someone is positive, if you are unsure of their status.

Both SAAF and Beat-AIDS focus on not just preventative measures but insuring those with the disease are able to live fulfilled lives. That means resources for housing, access to medicines and emotional and mental counseling.  To give help, these organizations need help.

That’s where NCNW Red Shoe Gala, stepped in. Along with the dinner ticket, guest purchased raffle tickets for weekend getaways, jewelry and other gifts. By the end of the night the room raised over $10,000 in donations for the two organizations.

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