Just in time for HIV Awareness month in December, the Florida Department of Health has reported that, through voluntary counseling and testing, there has been an increase of HIV-infected people in Florida who know they are infected.
Approximately 95 percent of all reported HIV-infected individuals know their status, according to a FLDOH report.
This reduced the number of new HIV infections in Florida from an estimated 4,000 per year to 2,000 per year, with particular focus on the elimination of racial and ethnic disparities in new HIV infections.
Tanya Tatum, director of FAMU’s Student Health Services, said in Leon County there are eight times as many blacks infected with HIV than whites.
According to the Leon County Health Department, 1 in 158 black women in the county who are 13 and older are living with HIV, compared to 1 of every 1,908 white women.
The latest numbers from the FLDOH reveal that 889 people are infected with HIV in Leon County, and black Floridians make up a disproportionate amount of new cases.
Tatum said FAMU students should make getting periodic tests their priority.
“HIV testing routines and check-ups should be taken seriously if you are sexually active,” said Tatum. “Students need to be more serious about medical care. It just makes sense to get tested. We need to keep the numbers from increasing.”
Tatum also said it is important that students are honest and open with anyone that they are involved with and should never be silent when others are confiding in them about their interactions.
“Students, educators and health professionals must work together to take action and stop the assault of HIV on those they love, reach or serve,” said Tatum.
Joane Noel, a senior biology student and unit sectary at Tallahassee Memorial Hospital, said the idea that there are students who do not use protection is shocking.
“This generation is crazy,” said Noel. “There’s too much out there not to protect yourself.”
Jasmine Turner, a senior cardiopulmonary science student, said if students could see some of the patients she sees on a regular basis during her clinical rotations, students would be more careful.
“Students should start taking health and life in general more seriously,” said Turner. “I’ve seen all types of patients and HIV/AIDS is preventable. But just as easy as it is to protect yourself, it’s just as easy to make one mistake that could change your life and health forever. It’s just not worth it.”
Turner said keeping track of your health and informing everyone who is involved is extremely important.
“I feel students should be advocates in their community to promote safe sex so the cycle won’t continue to grow,” said Turner.
“I encourage patients who are infected to stay up to date with their routine visits to their primary care physicians. Most importantly they should be open with their partners so they won’t infect them.
Tatum said the student health service offers free testing in hopes that students would actually come. The FAMU Health Clinic will host its annual “Rap-it-Up” testing in December.
“As for now and the last three years, students can come in and get tested any time our door is open,” said Tatum.
Melisha Joseph, Treatment Assistant at TMH and Canopy Cove encourages students who are afraid to utilize campus resources to go to outside health clinics for testing.
“Getting tested should be nothing students get embarrassed about,” said Joseph. “Students need to understand that the resources on campus are completely confidential and that they are in good hands.”
For more information on HIV/AIDS testing contact FAMU’s Student Health Services at 850-599-3777.