Grassroots Initiative Launches New Campaign to Encourage HIV-positive Candidates for Elected Offices in New York

Released on = June 25, 2007, 7:49 pm

Press Release Author = Grassroots Initiative

Industry = Government

Press Release Summary = Nonpartisan effort marks next phase of the organization's
'Fighting Prejudice with Votes' series

Press Release Body = New York - The New York-based, nonpartisan organization
Grassroots Initiative announced today the start of a new campaign to encourage
candidates for elected offices among people living with HIV in New York. New print
public service announcements (PSAs) were unveiled and will be distributed to
community centers and HIV support groups around the city. The organization's efforts
aim to recruit a slate of individuals to run for both Republican and Democratic
Party positions in New York, a gateway to higher elected offices.

"We can not afford for HIV/AIDS not to be in the public spotlight," said Jeff S.
Merritt, Founder and President of Grassroots Initiative. "When leaders in the HIV
community opt out of public service because they fear stigma, we all lose out. This
campaign is as much about people living with HIV as it is about those without. It is
our hope that these candidates will be role models for the countless other
communities in this great city who have been disenfranchised from the political
process for far too long."

There are more than 100,000 New Yorkers living with HIV; thousands are not aware of
their HIV-positive status. Each year, according to the New York City Department of
Health and Mental Hygiene, more than 1,000 people in New York City find out they are
HIV-positive after they are already sick with AIDS. New York City has the highest
AIDS case rate in the country, with more AIDS cases than Los Angeles, San Francisco,
Miami, and Washington DC combined.

In support of Grassroots Initiative's effort, POZ magazine - the award-winning
monthly magazine for people with HIV/AIDS - announced plans to launch a new
political component of their website,, which will spotlight the campaign to
encourage HIV+ candidates. is the fastest growing website in the HIV
community with monthly page views exceeding 3.5 million.

\"It\'s critical to have HIV positive people in a position to directly shape the
governmental policies that affect those of us living with HIV/AIDS," said Regan
Hofmann, Editor-in-Chief of POZ Magazine. "This is especially true in an era when
our federal government fails to address such issues as the need for
non-abstinence-only sex education; greater funding support for the Ryan White CARE
Act and ADAP; and universal access to care.\"

HIV is also the health problem with the largest racial disparity; 80% of new AIDS
diagnoses and deaths are among African Americans and Hispanics. Black men in New
York City are 6 times more likely to die of AIDS than white men; black women are 9
times more likely to die of AIDS than white women. Hispanic men and women are 4
times more likely to die of AIDS than white men and women.

In recognition of this crisis, the team at Grassroots Initiative is targeting its
outreach in areas such as East Harlem where HIV/AIDS is particularly acute. As the
candidates hit the campaign trail this election season, Grassroots Initiative will
also be documenting the story in photos as the next phase of its Fighting Prejudice
with Votes series. The documentary and public awareness series debuted in 2006,
showcasing Grassroots Initiative's efforts to elect the first Sikh elected officials
in New York.

"It takes courage to run for elected office," noted Merritt. "These individuals are
the heroes worthy of our attention. Politics isn't always inspirational; yet when
democracy shines, it's a wonderful thing - for all of us."


Grassroots Initiative is a non-partisan, nonprofit organization committed to
rebuilding democracy by opening doors, breaking down barriers and establishing
effective dialogue between community residents and public decision makers.
Grassroots Initiative promotes community involvement, assists first-time candidates
for public office and enables decision makers to better utilize public input. For
more information, visit

POZ is published by Smart + Strong, a division of CDM Publishing, Inc. The magazine
POZ, a trusted source of information for the HIV community, is published 11 times
per year with a circulation rate base of 150,000. offers daily news updates,
treatment information, POZ Personals, POZ Mentor and more. Smart + Strong is also
the publisher of and Real Health, The Guide to Black Wellness. Real
Health covers health topics of interest to the African American community including
diabetes, cardiovascular disease, and HIV. For more information, log onto

Web Site =

Contact Details = Alex Carabelli
Grassroots Initiative
(212) 379-1274 x214

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