The Tallahassee Chapter of The Links, Incorporated has partnered with the The Florida Department of Health in Leon County to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS in the African-American community. Through a collaborative effort the organizations are offering free HIV testing at the Neighborhood Medical Center on Orange Ave.
Testing will be available from Jan. 21 through Feb. 7. Individuals who get tested will also receive a $20 Walmart gift card, while supplies last.
President of the Tallahassee Chapter of The Links, Incorporated, Alexis Roberts McMillan, noted this would be the first of many events to educate the local community.
“We understand the critical need for African-Americans in the Leon/Gadsden community to know more about HIV,” McMillan said. “With the grant that Gilead Pharmaceuticals awarded us, we decided to host events that will shine a light on the disease, while also making it entertaining and viable to the public.”
The Tallahassee Chapter of The Links, Incorporated is a community organization consisting of women of color who are committed to advocating and educating African-Americans in the community.
According to a study on AIDSinfo, in 2016 African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses, despite making up 12% of the U.S. population.
Minority AIDS Coordinator for the Florida Department of Health, Kiara Dale believes it’s vital for Leon County residents to be aware of the risks and importance of HIV/AIDS.
“We are bringing awareness,” Dale said. “But, there are so many barriers that you have to break down before somebody even steps into the door to get an HIV test and I think one of those things are stigmas and the other is fear.”
Feb. 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. On that day, testing is promoted heavily, HIV/AIDS education and awareness is promoted, as well as, treatment methods, in black communities.
Following this campaign there will be a “Hands Up! Dance Showcase” on Friday, Feb. 8, at 7 p.m. in Lee Hall on Florida A&M University’s campus. This will bring performers from FAMU and Florida State University to bring awareness about the fight against HIV/AIDS through modern dance.
Francis Arnold, junior business administration major, believes events like this are needed for important topics.
“I think it’s very important for college students to get tested,” Arnold said. “Many people do not seek to know their status and that needs to change for the better of our community.”
Another event that will be featured is the “Lunch & Learn: Recognizing National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day” Saturday, Feb. 9, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Delta Kappa Omega Providence Community Service Center.
This will be an open discussion event with an expert who is working in the field of HIV, and also who is HIV positive. Following the open discussion, speakers will educate about other subjects such a nutrition tips, holistic living, and medication such as PREP.
For more information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day and HIV/AIDS awareness in general, visit the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention at https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/library/awareness/nbhaad.html.