National Black Aids/HIV Awareness Day Event Held in St. Pete
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02/08/10 Concetta DeLuco
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In honor of the 10th Annual National Black HIV/Aids Awareness Day on February 7, the Pinellas County Health Department worked with area partnerships to organize several community events over the weekend.

On Saturday the Front Porch Community Development Association in St. Petersburg hosted one of the events. HIV Screenings and prevention education were offered to the hundreds of people that attended. J. Carl Devine is the executive director of the Banyan Tree Project, a group dedicated to helping people live with AIDS. He said the most important thing African Americans can gain from the event is awareness.

According to the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 1.2 million people are living with HIV or AIDS in the United States. At least 56,000 people are newly infected with Aids each year and nearly half of those are African Americans. Devine said the reason most people in the African American community remain at such risk for contracting HIV or Aids is because many choose to remain in denial.

James West is a 12-year prostate cancer survivor. He was at the event promoting awareness about the cancer, a disease he said often goes undetected. West said he also recognizes that both HIV and Aids often go undiagnosed and untreated. He believes the problem is that people choose not to get checked because they are afraid to be diagnosed.

In a recent study conducted by the Centers for Disease Control both African American men and women had the highest HIV death rates in 2006. Jeanie Blue is with Di’s Amani, a non-profit case management contracted with Medicaid to provide home and community based service to people with HIV or full blown Aids. She said the reason people choose not to get tested for the disease is because they believe once they have it there is no help for them. Blue said there is help.

David Wyche was one of the many people in attendance at Saturday’s event. He said he was there to support the cause. Preaching the importance of awareness, he said the more people that bring attention to the disease, the more change that will occur.

For more information on the risks among African Americans associated with HIV and Aids visit BlackAIDSDay.org.

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