HIV / AIDS education key to prevention in Florida

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (also known as HIV) and Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (also known as AIDS) continue to grow in our communities. HIV / AIDS continues to grow in Lee County, Miami-Dade County and Broward County. Every county is different but they still face the same dilemma which is the spread of HIV / AIDS.

In 2013, the Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) ranked Florida first in the United States for the number of new HIV cases diagnosed compared to 50 other states. Miami, Florida has reported more cases than any other state except four, in the United States alone.

In 2014, 6,132 people newly declared infected with HIV in Florida, 15 were among children under the age of 13 according to the Florida Department of Health. Florida ranked third in the number of cases of children newly diagnosed with HIV.

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If the numbers don’t scare you, it should. Our communities are not only affected, but our future as well. Our children start to get infected with this deadly disease at a young age. These diseases can affect them for the rest of their lives.

Despite college sex education, the numbers continue to rise. Children, our future, are experiencing and do not know the full extent of the danger they are putting themselves. They teach kids about abstinence in school, but we neglect to teach them ways to protect themselves if they want to be sexually active.

Women are also affected and may not know they have HIV / AIDS. Many women may not realize they are affected until they get pregnant and start their antenatal appointments. Women who become pregnant and do not receive treatment before giving birth are at risk of transmitting the disease to the infant at birth.

In 2014, there were 6 infected perinatal births reported according to the CDC. Currently, pregnant women are tested twice during their pregnancy. The first time in the first trimester and the second in the third trimester.

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The increase in HIV / AIDS in our community is related to the lack of awareness and the severity of this disease. Many people in the gay and heterosexual community think they can just take a pill for this disease so that they don’t have to worry about contracting the disease, according to Sommer Holloway, a doctor of nurse practitioner.

In addition, the increase in online dating and access to hookups has also contributed to an increase in sexually transmitted diseases in our community. Many people do not require their partners to produce documents indicating their status or even discuss their status. When people are in a committed relationship, they don’t see the need to get tested, but they too should get tested anyway.

A lot of people are also worried about what the results may say, because if it comes back positive then it’s real. Although they don’t know it, they won’t stress about it, but that’s why we need to educate them to get tested.

These diseases affect not only our community, but also our families. It is important that we focus on educating the whole family on how to protect and support each other.

The first step to improving our communities is to educate them about the importance of getting tested. Let them know that it is not a waste of time to get tested, it only takes a few minutes of their day.

In addition, I think it is important to work with the local health service to develop mobile access to education and HIV / AIDS prevention. I believe that having mobile buses visits our poor communities who have limited resources and education in sex education. Especially many of our illegal immigrants are less likely to be tested for fear of deportation and lack of money for health care. By providing a mobile bus that provides education and eventual medical treatment to communities most in need, we can hope to see a decrease in the number of new cases.

These diseases do not discriminate, they affect all of our communities. We need to spread education to African American communities, Latin American communities, Caucasian communities, poor and rich communities. These diseases don’t care who they affect, so we need to work together to help protect all of our communities. The only way to move forward is to decide to change and talk about these diseases.

Danielle Russell RN, BSN is a registered nurselife in Fort Myers.

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