Health department speaks on HIV/AIDS

Earlier this month, Kenneth Johnson’s personality filled a classroom in the School of Journalism & Graphic Communication as he began to educate the journalism students about the dangers of HIV/AIDS and the affect it has on the black community.      

Johnson is the educational outreach coordinator for the state of Florida. He discussed the importance of practicing safe sex and knowing your status. He also explained that when people become educated about the dangers of this incurable virus, they act more responsibly.

“It’s important to get tested and know your status,” Johnson said.

“You can’t tell how people look on the inside.”     

He said the Florida Department of Health has implemented programs to help spread the awareness of the epidemic.

One of the programs included is “Sistas Organizing to Survive.” According to Johnson, SOS is an outreach program that targets the HIV/AIDS crisis in Florida among women—particularly women in the black community.      

“All you have to do is text your zip code and the local health department in your area will appear,” Johnson said. “It’s that simple.”

According to the department, Florida has the largest AIDS and HIV testing in America and ranks third in the country among people living with AIDS, behind California and New York.

Jennifer Rowe, 20, a fourth-year biology student from Jacksonville, said she is aware of the alarming number of people that have contracted HIV and AIDS.      

“Many people may feel they are invincible until they contract the virus,” Rowe said.  “The chances of getting pregnant with unprotected sex are equal to contracting HIV/AIDS. This is why it is imperative to know your status and get tested every six months.”

According to the DOH, Miami leads the state with the highest cases of blacks with HIV/AIDS. One in every 29 people have the virus in Miami.

Palm Beach follows with 1-31 and Port Saint Lucie with 1-32.       

Aundrea James, 21, from Hastings, Fla., said not knowing your status is frightening. 

“I would have never guessed Port Saint Lucie was that high on the list,” said James, a fourth-year nursing student. 

“A lot of people are afraid of knowing so they don’t go and get tested.”

Suneeta Williams, 21, a sociology student from Miami said  the HIV and AIDS epidemic should be a sign for black people and allow them to wake up and realize their full potential.

“The largest contributing factor to getting HIV/AIDS is having unprotected sex,” Williams said. “We as a people need to take more responsibility for our actions.”
Johnson encouraged everyone to help be a part of the solution.

“HIV/AIDS is 100 percent preventable.” Johnson said. “When spider webs unite, they can tie up a lion.”