Florida Times-Union (Jacksonville) (02.06.10) - Friday,
Jacksonville-area health officials observed National Black
HIV/AIDS Awareness Day by hosting numerous testing and
education events across the First Coast. Though the outreach
is officially held each year on Feb. 7, local organizers did
not want to compete against the Super Bowl on Sunday so events
were scheduled over the course of three days ending Saturday.
Nationally, African Americans represent 13 percent of the
population but account for 49 percent of diagnosed HIV/AIDS
cases. In Duval County, state Department of Health data show
the disparity is greater - 63 percent of those diagnosed with
AIDS are black.
Initiatives like the awareness day are important because they
encourage people to get tested who otherwise might not, said
Max Wilson, the region's AIDS prevention coordinator for the
state health department. "It really mobilizes the entire
population," he said.
Lolita Hill, director of HIV outreach at River Region Human
Services, has been an AIDS educator for 21 years. Inside a
drawer at the bottom of her desk, she keeps a thick stack of
funeral programs representing northeast Florida friends who
have died from AIDS. Too many of them were African-American,
At River Region's office just west of downtown, people
trickled in Friday for rapid HIV testing. To ease the wait for
results, the agency provided a party-like atmosphere with food
and music. Of the 100 or so people Hill expected to test, two
or three results would likely come back positive, she said.