Tallahassee community organizations aimed to educate citizens on AIDS on Saturday.
Several community centers, including Bond Community Health Center Inc., Florida A&M Women’s Center, Student Health Services, Counseling Center and the Institute of Public Health, partnered up to host the World AIDS Day Luncheon and “The Arts” on Saturday at the Southside Arts Complex.
Since 1988, Dec. 1 has been recognized as World AIDS Day. It is a worldwide opportunity to unite those of every race or ethnicity in the fight against HIV/AIDS as well as remember the millions of lives who have succumbed to the disease.
Sheila Morris, minority health coordinator at the Florida Department of Health, introduced the World AIDS Day theme for the state of Florida during the welcome.
“Getting to Zero is Florida’s theme this year,” Morris said. “We need to get to zero HIV infections. How do we plan to do this? By educating ourselves and getting tested.”
Most attendees were between ages 18 and 26.
“So you all have never lived in a world without HIV/AIDS,” Morris said. “You have always known about HIV/AIDS.”
In Florida, African-Americans make up 13 percent of the population but account for more of the HIV/AIDS cases.
Renita Smith presented an interactive poem with the audience.
“What would you do if you’re walking down the street and someone started chasing you?” Smith asked.
The audience’s response was to run.
“Why is it as it pertains to AIDS do we run and do much of nothing?” she said. “We made it through slavery together, we marched together, but now, I ask that we stand together to beat AIDS so we can all get back to zero.”
Alyssa Crawford, a FAMU student and HIV/AIDS activist, was among the guest speakers for the luncheon who spoke on HIV 101. HIV/AIDS can be transmitted through unprotected sex.
“What is sex?” Crawford said to the audience. “Sex consists of vaginal, anal, oral and digital. HIV targets T-cells produced by the thyroid gland to replicate the virus. As an HIV person, you want your T-cells to be higher than the virus, which means the virus is undetected.”
There is a misconception about someone being undetected and someone being cured.
“Magic Johnson is undetected, not cured,” Crawford said. “The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) by law has to release information regarding a cure for HIV/AIDS.”
Thomas Dozier shared his story about living with HIV/AIDS.
“I was diagnosed in the ’80s,” Dozier said. “I tested positive 26 years ago. My brother and I shared needles. That’s where I contracted AIDS full-blown. I had a T-cell count of 30.”
His brother, who also had HIV/AIDS, died in 2001, which inspired Dozier to advocate and educate others about the disease.
“I take about 180 pills a month to live, and I suffer from nerve damage from the pills, but I’m blessed to be here,” Dozier said.