NEW YORK, June 9 /PRNewswire/ -- Celebrities including Dennis Haysbert, star of the Fox series "24," and Mathew St. Patrick, star of HBO's "Six Feet Under," are joining executives from Black Entertainment Television (BET), Pfizer, Inc., and Verizon Communications to mobilize their African-American colleagues in entertainment and corporate America to take action against the rising incidence of HIV/AIDS in the Black community. They are coming together June 11 for the 2003 The National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS' (NBLCA) "Choose Life" Benefit Gala in response to a call for action from the NBLCA, the nation's largest public policy and community development not-for-profit organization of its kind working on behalf of communities of African descent. Haysbert, along with Debra L. Lee, president and COO of Black Entertainment Television, and Robert Mallett, senior vice president of corporate affairs for Pfizer, Inc., are receiving the NBLCA's "Choose Life" award for their efforts to raise awareness and stop the spread of HIV/AIDS in the Black community. The awards will be presented June 11 at the NBLCA gala at New York City's The Lighthouse at Chelsea Piers. More than 250 African- American executives and entertainers are expected to attend the black tie event. HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death for Black Americans between the ages of 25 and 34. One in 50 African-American males and 1 in 160 African- American females are infected with HIV, and African-Americans have the highest rates of death from HIV/AIDS. "How can you hear this and not respond?" said Bruce Gordon, president of Verizon Communications' retail markets group. Gordon is serving as the dinner's chair along with honorary co-chairs Mrs. Coretta Scott King and the Honorable David N. Dinkins. "The crux of the HIV/AIDS issue in the minority community is what's going on in public policy and prevention," Gordon said. "This is where the NBLCA excels and this is where the African-American leadership can come together to bolster the Commission's efforts." "We've drawn people from every platform of influence in our community -- literally from the stage to the boardroom," said Debra Frazer-Howze, the NBLCA founder, president and CEO. "This sends a strong message to policy makers and puts muscle behind the NBLCA's public policy, research and community service programs, which is essential if we are going to have an impact on the spread of HIV/AIDS in communities of color." Verizon is a partial underwriter of the event, along with benefactor Pfizer, Inc. Tickets are available by contacting JFM2 Productions at (212) 921-9070. Founded in 1987, the National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc. is the oldest and largest Black public policy, disease prevention, health promotion, and community development not-for-profit organization working on behalf of communities of African descent across the nation. Through organizing and educating indigenous Black leaders on HIV/AIDS prevention and public health, the NBLCA has created a unique structure of affiliate chapters consisting of clergy, media representatives, medical practitioners, business professionals and philanthropists with a history and tradition of service to their communities. These stakeholders are the essence of the affiliate infrastructures that the NBLCA develops and maintains in local communities where African-Americans are hardest hit by HIV/AIDS, other public health maladies, and racial/ethnic disparities in health care. Verizon Foundation last year awarded 22,000 grants totaling more than $70 million to nonprofit agencies that focus on improving basic and computer literacy, enriching communities through technology, and creating a skilled work force. The foundation uses its resources in the U.S., and abroad to develop partnerships in technology and connect them with organizations serving the needs of diverse communities, people with disabilities, victims of domestic violence and the economically and socially disadvantaged. The foundation also supports Verizon Volunteers, an incentive program that last year encouraged Verizon employees to volunteer more than 600,000 hours in their communities and provided more than $28 million in matching gifts to nonprofit organizations. For more information on the foundation, visit www.verizon.com/foundation .
SOURCE National Black Leadership Commission on AIDS, Inc.