Over the decades, Blair Underwood has thrilled audiences with suave and passion-filled roles on TV shows such as L.A. Law, The Event, and Sex and the City. And in movies like Deep Impact and Madea’s Family Reunion. The now 50-year-old even gets up close and personal in theatrical productions such as the Broadway revival of A Streetcar Named Desire.
But behind the scenes, Blair has played a different role: the impassioned activist on a mission to improve people’s lives, especially those with human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), which is the cause of acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). Through his years of work and awareness campaigns, Underwood has become one of the most powerful voices in the fight against HIV/AIDS.
It’s essential, Underwood says, to create “conversation and awareness” around this still-stigmatized disease. And one of the least publicized and understood aspects of HIV/AIDS is its effect on the nervous system, known as neuro-AIDS.
AIDS Healthcare Foundation (AHF) is the largest AIDS Service Organization in the world. Two years ago, they opened the Blair Underwood Center in Washington, DC which services everyone, accepts all insurance (and no insurance) and treats and prescribe medication right there at their pharmacy counter. Testers are nice, accurate, quick, and confidential. Washington, D.C., has the highest rate of HIV infection in the United States, at roughly 3 percent—which is higher than the infection rates in many parts of Africa. “It’s one of the most frustrating statistics,” Underwood says, “because this is not only in our country, but in our nation’s capital.”
“It’s too important,” says Underwood. “HIV and AIDS is now affecting everyone. It first started out being this small group and still disproportionately affects the African American community. But so many of us now know someone who is has been affected by the disease. We can’t just sit back anymore. I’m honored that I can associate my name with such a great cause.”
Read more about Blair Underwood’s AIDS activism at BlackDoctor.Org.
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(Photo: Jason Merritt/Getty Images)