Week of events set to raise black HIV/AIDS awareness

This week, the University’s Student Health Services and other student organizations have organized a number of events in honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.Student manpower will run the events.

“This is a student-based and student-led event,” said Jennifer Harrison-Hauer, health educator with Student Health Services. “The students involved are from various student organizations and have a sincere desire to increase awareness of AIDS amongst young black people.”

Because of the high HIV/AIDS rates among blacks, the issue of preventing this pandemic has become one of primary importance.

The agencies’ goal is to educate the community about HIV and AIDS, encourage testing and get people to know their status. “The main goal of the day is to teach students and those in the community prevention, treatment options, statistics and the latest research updates,” Harrison-Hauer said.

The first in a week of events will be a block party Feb. 7 on The Set from 5 p.m. – 9 p.m.

“From 5 p.m. – 8 p.m. there will be free HIV, syphilis testing and Hepatitis A&B vaccinations available courtesy of the Leon County Health Department,” Harrison-Hauer said. “In addition to the various health promotion tables that will include invaluable information on HIV/AIDS and other STDs, we’ll have music, entertainment, food and drinks.”

Other events scheduled for the week include a seminar about sexually transmitted diseases, poetry about AIDS and a candlelight vigil.

MENTcondition, a local youth mentoring program, is one of the various agencies and organizations that will be volunteering at this week’s events.

Danielle Alexander, 21, a sociology student who works with many of the teenagers in the program on a daily basis, discussed the excitement the teens expressed about their involvement with the event.

“They are teens that are very passionate about passing out info on something so important,” said the junior Miami native. “I am just hoping that the presence of young teens will encourage college students to take the black AIDS crisis more seriously.”Data collected through 2005 by the Florida Department of Health said nearly 137,000 HIV/AIDS cases were reported in the United States. Out of those, 81,585 were in Florida.

Blacks only represent 14 percent of the population, but account for 51 percent of persons living with HIV/AIDS. HIV/AIDS is currently the leading cause of death among black males and females 25-44 years old.

Statistics from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention show blacks account for more HIV and AIDS cases, people estimated to be living with AIDS, and HIV-related deaths than any other racial/ethnic group in the United States.

In fact on a global scale, a large proportion of the estimated 40 million people living with HIV/AIDS are African or of African descent.

Harrison-Hauer said she sees awareness as one of the many ways to promote prevention.

“It’s important to get tested, especially when sexually active,” Harrison-Hauer said. “For students who are unaware of their status, the sooner they know the better they can protect themselves and others.

“Some of the best ways to protect yourself from being infected with the deadly disease (HIV/AIDS) is to practice safe sex by using condoms, getting tested when sex partners are changed and abstinence.”

Harrison-Hauer concluded with a metaphor tagged by the FL-DOH.

“Silence is death,” Harrison-Hauer said. “Know your status.” For further information about National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day events contact Jennifer Harrison-Hauer at (850) 599-3777 or Jennifer.hauer@famu.edu.