AIDS activist hopes to become first African-American to row solo across Atlantic

More than 25 years into the AIDS epidemic, HIV continues to soar in the black community, and for one activist in Brooklyn rowing solo across the Atlantic Ocean may be a way to raise awareness of the crisis.

Victor Mooney, 41, a college publicist and AIDS activist, in 2006 had hoped to become the first African-American to row solo across the Atlantic Ocean but had to be rescued after only a few hours in the water when his boat began to leak.

But he will try again later this year and has said he would unveil the designs of his new ocean rowboat on Wednesday, timed to coincide with National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.

The mission of Mooney's venture remains the same - to memorialize the trans-Atlantic slave trade route that brought blacks to the Americas from Africa and to connect the plight of AIDS in the two continents.

"It is my belief, that those that survived the Middle Passage would want us to help the next generation," Mooney said in a statement before the unveiling.

The activist, a founder of the Brooklyn-based cultural organization South African Arts International, announced that his second attempt would take place Dec. 1, World AIDS Day.

His first attempt took place in May 2006 when he departed from an island off the coast of Dakar in a 24-foot (7.2-meter) ocean rowboat he built for the journey. Less than two hours later, the Senegalese navy was called in to save him as his boat began to sink.

Solo rows across the Atlantic Ocean are notoriously perilous, with fewer than 50 people having completed the journey, according to the England-based Ocean Rowing Society.

If the 2006 trip had gone as planned, Mooney would have made it to the Caribbean in 120 days, then rowed up the coast to reach New York.

This time, Mooney plans to depart from Goree Island, Senegal - once a prison and auction site for slaves bound for the Americas - and finish in the Caribbean 90 days later, the AP reports.

The unveiling of the row boat coincides with various events for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day throughout the city, including free HIV prevention workshops and presentations at the William F. Ryan Community Health Network.

More than half of newly diagnosed infections of HIV in the U.S. have been documented in the black community, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Forty-seven percent of the approximately one million people in the U.S. who suffer from HIV are black, according to 2005 CDC statistics.