Woodland Park AIDS march a success


More than 35 people walked in the World AIDS Day March.

AIDA MALLARD/Special to the Guardian
Published: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 2:45 p.m.
Last Modified: Wednesday, December 5, 2012 at 2:45 p.m.

By AIDA MALLARD

Facts

AIDS EXHIBIT

What: "Faces of HIV," a mobile art exhibit to showcase persons living with HIV and their day-to-day lives.
When: Noon-5 p.m. Friday.
Where: Alachua County Library District Headquarters, 401 E. University Ave.
Information: Call 334-3900.

Special to the Guardian

More than 35 men, women and boys joined the fight against HIV/AIDS as they walked the streets of the Woodland Park neighborhood offering residents HIV/AIDS information during the 2012 World AIDS Day March.

Coordinated by Black AIDS Services and Education, or BASE, the World AIDS Day March was one of a series of events held from Nov. 29-Dec. 5 to raise HIV/AIDS awareness, and to encourage people to get tested for the HIV virus.

The march took place last Saturday at Caring and Sharing Learning School. Participants included members of the Beta Pi Chapter of Omega Psi Phi Fraternity Inc., staff and students from the Gainesville Job Corps Center, and boys in the Project Manhood afterschool program.

Nkwanda Jah, a member of BASE and executive director of the Cultural Arts Coalition, said each year, the march is held in a neighborhoods in east Gainesville.

This year's theme, "Getting to Zero," refers to putting an end to HIV/AIDS and the stigma HIV/AIDS positives endure.

Dr. Michael Bowie, BASE president, offered the welcome, and gave a brief overview of BASE, which was established in 2000 to provide HIV/AIDS education. Bowie is the executive director at the University of Florida Fund for Minority Teachers, which provides scholarships and assistance to eligible minorities.

Dr. Anthony Greene, vice president of BASE, offered the prayer, and asked participants to reflect on the people they've lost to HIV/AIDS.

"The HIV virus does not discriminate," said Greene, who is a psychologist at the University of Florida Counseling and Wellness Center.

Green challenged participants to do their part to promote awareness and to dispel HIV/AIDS myths by engaging in discussion with friends and family about HIV/AIDS, and the importance of getting tested.

"Consider what you can do when you talk to your friends," Greene said. "Are you promoting love and acceptance or hate and condemnation?"

Naima Brown, interim vice-president of student affairs at Santa Fe College, spoke about working to get to Zero in the number of people affected with the virus, and the stigma what HIV/AIDS positives endure.

"We want people to have answers, not myths," Brown said.

"No one should be discriminated because they have an illness. Why do we treat these people differently? Anyone could have HIV/AIDS."

"Getting to Zero is fighting the stigma and the illness," Brown said.

Theresa White, Area 3/13 Minority AIDS Program coordinator and health education program consultant, presented an interactive activity to illustrate the risks of engaging in unprotected sex. She said one out five black men in Florida have the HIV virus and one in four don't know they have it.

"We need our black men to be strong," White said. "We're faced with the elimination of our race."

According to an HIV/AIDS Florida facts provided by BASE, Florida ranks third in the nation in the number of AIDS cases, with blacks making-up 15 percent of Florida's adult population, yet representing more than half, or 53 percent, of the 4,944 AIDS cases and 45 percent of the 7,503 HIV cases reported in 2008.

HIV/AIDS is the second leading cause of death for black females between the ages of 25-44, and the fourth leading cause of death for black males ages 25-44.

Youth participants received backpacks containing HIV/AIDS information that they enthusiastically handed-out to residents in the Woodland Park neighborhood.

Justin Walker, an eighth grader at Ft. Clarke Middle School, said the march is making a difference.

"I think this march is really helping the people here and preventing them from dying from AIDS," Justin said. "I think we're making a difference."

Jah said she was impressed by the enthusiasm shown by the young people. She said these young people are learning about the HIV virus at an early age, and thus, will have an opportunity to make a difference as to how people with the disease are treated in the future.

"The stigma keeps people from the getting help," Jah said. "I think the march was a success especially in terms of reaching young people. We were successful in our outreach efforts."

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