AIDS Day raises awareness

In recognition of World AIDS Day, the Leon County Department of Health and Shisa, Inc. were on The Set Monday to provide students with free HIV testing and more information about the deadly disease.

Dale Harrison, an epidemiologist, and Leisha Ware, a public health adviser for Leon County, hoped that FAMU students would become more knowledgeable about the disease, which is the leading cause of death among blacks ages 25 to 44.

“Basically, we want them to know their status,” Harrison said about FAMU students who were tested. “We really want to get into the community because a lot of times people don’t even know the difference between HIV and AIDS.”

In order to better prepare students for the results of their tests, the department of health offered pretest and post-test counseling.

“We want students to be educated about HIV and AIDS and other STDs,” Ware said.

Shisa Inc., a community organization that aims to educate the black community through outreach programs and counseling, offered free AIDS testing on Monday. Sylvia Hubbard, director of outreach, said it is unfortunate that many students discover they are infected with the disease.

“Most of the black females are getting it at 14 and 15 and do not know it,” she said. “We’ve seen cases where a female has finished college and is ready to have a baby and finds out she has AIDS.”

UNAIDS, the joint United Nations program on HIV/AIDS, estimated that there were 38.6 million adults and 3.2 million children living with HIV at the end of 2002.

They also found that one out of every 46 blacks in Florida has HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS.

Nakisha Harris, a 20-year-old junior political science student from Atlanta, said it is disheartening that the statistics are so high for African-Americans.

“I think it’s sad that, in our community, we have to be affected by such an epidemic that can be so easily prevented,” she said.

Jason Preston and Winny Bienne, both from Miami, said one of the best ways for students to prevent themselves from contracting the disease is knowing their partner well before engaging in a sexual relationship.

“Know yourself, and know your partner,” said Preston, a 21-year-old junior theater student. “Know their history and what they’ve done,”Hubbard agreed with Preston.

He said that one of the largest negative factors that contributes to blacks contracting the disease is the amount of males who engage in sexual activity with women after secretly participating in homosexual activity.

“For those guys, they need to seek out support groups,” Hubbard said. “Shisa can create one for them if they need us to.”

World AIDS Day was created in 1988 to increase AIDS awareness and to raise money in order to find a cure.

This year, World AIDS Day’s theme was Stigma and Discrimination.

“It’s a good thing,” Bienne said about the creation of World AIDS Day. “The more help, the better.”

Hubbard said that the black community needs to become more aggressive in educating and warning each other about the disease.

“You can’t tell who has it [so] talk about it, learn prevention methods and keep each other safe,” she said. “It’s wiping us out.”

For more information:If students would like more information about HIV/AIDS testing, counseling services or how to become more involved with the fight against HIV and AIDS, they can contact Shisa, Inc. at 224-8718.