"The Voice" star shares HIV story with local students
Every 9.5 minutes, someone in the U.S. is infected with HIV. And it's even more of an issue for those of us living in the south.
Wednesday is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and students at Chattanooga State heard from a celebrity and singer living with the virus.
Once a famed finalist on NBC's "The Voice," Jamar Rogers has a powerful voice and a spirited personality. But he lives with something you can't see or hear: HIV.
"Even if you are HIV positive, life doesn't end there. Life goes on, you get a second chance. So that's my story and I'm sticking to it," Rogers said.
Rogers life hasn't always been so glamorous. He stole from people as a homeless, teenage runaway. He looked to booze and drugs and was addicted to crystal meth by age 18. He eventually tested positive for HIV and his life changed. Now, he's clean, engaged and recording an album.
"I call it the gift of HIV because once I was diagnosed with HIV, it made me turn my life around, it made me understand that I was created more than I was doing," he said.
In Tennessee, nearly 20,000 people live with the virus. There were more than 50 new cases of HIV reported locally in 2012.
"When you look at poverty, low education levels, unemployment, there's a lot of social determinants of health that impact HIV AIDS in the south," said Dr. Shanell McGoy of Tennessee's Dept. of Health.
"It's kind of waned in attention. But people are still dying. They need to see someone who is living well with HIV," said Rogers.
Free testing for HIV/AIDS will be offered Thursday at 6 p.m. at the Bessie Smith Cultural Center.