Voices echoed down the hallways of the Bond Community Health Center as students, local community members and health care professionals gathered to discuss the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the African-American community.
Tuesday, Feb. 7 marked the 12th annual observance of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The Bond Community Health Center featured a press conference and a panel discussion.
National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day was started in 1999 by five national organizations. It focuses on four points: education, testing, involvement and treatment. The day serves as an HIV/AIDS testing and treatment community mobilization initiative, targeting African-Americans in the United States.
“I just want to be a foot soldier for the cause,” said Shakeda Ferguson, a Tallahassee resident, “You can’t sit and listen to all the statistics and not want to do something to help. Tonight’s discussion is only the beginning for me.”
The panel discussion featured Keith Blocker, Senior Prevention and training Consultant for the Gadsden County Health Department; Dwight Kemp, Florida State University Health Educator/HIV Clinic Coordinator and Vivan Monah, Case Manager for the Bond Community Health Center.
“I’m encouraged that we are making significant changes. In Gadsden County, the number of African-Americans newly infected with HIV/AIDS dropped from 15 people in 2011 to four, but the fight against HIV is an ongoing fight. We [African-Americans] have to continue to talk and bring awareness to the severity of this issue in our community,” said Blocker.
Each year, almost 20,000 African-Americans in the United States test positive for HIV/AIDS. African-Americans, who represent 12 percent of the U.S. population, account for 45 percent of new HIV/AIDS infections. In 2008, African-Americans accounted for 53 percent of AIDS case deaths, according to the CDC.
“HIV/AIDS is an epidemic in the African-American community. We [the Bond Community Health Center] are hopeful that tonight’s discussion will bring light to the situation and unite the community in the fight against HIV/AIDS,” said Monah.
BCHC specializes in HIV/AIDS treatment, prevention education and testing. The main center, located at 1720 S. Gadsden St., has been in operation for over 30 years.
For more information about the Bond Community Health Center visit http://www.bondchc.com/index.html.