FAMU celebrates 18th anniversary of National Black HIV / AIDS Awareness Day – The Famuan

On Wednesday, February 7, 2018, students flocked to the teaching gymnasium at the Alfred Lawson Jr. Multi-Use Center to hear professionals talk about HIV / AIDS.

Dr. Maria Okeke, professor in the Department of Health and Physical Education, and Director of Health Services Tanya Tatum have been the program coordinators of this event for 20 years.

“Since the onset of this insidious disease, it has drained our society. We are still disproportionately affected,” Okeke said. “I realize this conference room should have been full, but even though we only have one student and can serve that student, our goal has been met.”

Despite the progress, the African American community has seen the number of people affected by HIV / AIDS decline and resources increase, there is still a lot of work to be done.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2016, African Americans accounted for 44% of HIV diagnoses. Still, this statistic can be quite shocking when, according to the United States Census Bureau, African Americans make up 13.5% of the American population.

One statistic that may strike a little closer to home is the 14,740 cases of people aged 20 to 29 in the United States who were diagnosed with HIV in 2016. In addition, statistics show that the contribution of HIV and AIDS is not evenly distributed geographically. In 2016, the South accounted for 16.8% of all HIV / AIDS cases, the highest of any other region.

As a method of prevention, students are encouraged to seek out pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) and post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP), two drugs that will be available free of charge in all counties in Florida by the end of 2018. The PrEP can be used for patients. who are at high risk of contracting HIV and PEP for people who are HIV negative but have recently been exposed to the virus.

Sheila Morris has been working with Okeke and Tatum since December of last year to bring this beneficial event to the Florida A&M student body. With experience as a representative of the Leon County Department of Health, Bond Community Health Center, Inc. and as a FAMU Health Sciences Professor, Morris is no stranger to education. community on this issue.

“Education is the key; knowledge is power. We want people to get tested, educated, become community activists, and learn more about PEP and PrEP, but remember these are not substitutes for using condoms. “

Jazzmyne Stephenson, a senior in interdisciplinary studies major, has been tested multiple times throughout her academic career and values ​​awareness on the FAMU campus. Stephenson wants his peers to see the test as more of an opportunity than a burden.

“It’s our job to hold each other accountable, and if we have the power to do something, we should do it,” Stephenson said. “Take a friend with you to get tested, make it a fun event. Most importantly, if you’re afraid of getting tested, be more afraid of having unprotected sex.”

Brian King, a junior specializing in health, recreation and fitness studies with a minor in business, was also one of those students who listened intently to the panelists as they shared valuable prevention tips and methods.

“I’m in the young adulthood stage where a lot of these diseases have just come to my attention, and it was great to get information about HIV / AIDS and other STDs and how we can do them. prevent and detect them. “

King said he noticed a significant difference when it came to discussing the issue with his friends compared to his high school years where the topic was seen as seemingly taboo.

“I notice a lot of my friends are talking more openly about the issue compared to when I was younger, when people weren’t really talking about it,” King said. “Honestly, I haven’t made getting tested a priority in the past, but now I know I should start.”

African American women are 18 times more likely to contract HIV than Caucasian women, and African American men are four and a half times more likely to contract HIV than their Caucasian counterparts.

King has an important point to share with students who are still not comfortable with the subject: “It’s not about being cool. It’s about protecting yourself, so this is the first step. We have to remember that you don’t really have to worry about what other people think, ”King said. Make sure you are okay and surround yourself with good supportive people.

The College of Education, Department of Health, Department of Physical Education and Recreation, FAMU Student Health Services, National Health Equity Alliance, and Leon County Health Department were all sponsors of the event.

Visit https://gettested.cdc.gov or https://www.hiv.gov for resources on HIV / AIDS to find out how you can get tested in a location near you.

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