Community meeting on STDs is Monday


Published: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.
Last Modified: Saturday, May 4, 2013 at 5:23 p.m.

Over the past five years, 75 percent of new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea were reported among people between the ages of 15 and 24 — a worrying statistic that has prompted a community meeting on Monday at the Alachua County Health Department.

The public meeting, sponsored by the 4As, short for the African-American Accountability Alliance, will include presentations from community members, high school and college students and public health officials.

“The issue seems to be that individuals don’t know that they are at risk. Our community has never really come together to effectively promote awareness of this issue,” said Juliun Kinsey, the education committee chair of the 4As. “Fortunately, it’s not too late, and there are people who care.”

Kinsey said some presentations will address models that have worked in curbing or preventing STDs, such as the one used by the University of Florida’s RCP campaign, which stands for “respect yourself; check yourself; protect yourself.”

Kinsey said that not only does Alachua County have high rates of STDs compared with the rest of the state, nationally, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 16- to 25-year-olds account for 50 percent of the new cases of chlamydia and gonorrhea, compared with 75 percent of people in this age group in Alachua County.

In addition, 114 new cases were reported in people ages 14 and below in Alachua County, according to Florida Department of Health statistics.

The statistics, released in March, showed that Alachua County has the fourth-highest level of STDs in the state, primarily among 15- to 19-year-olds. The data also show that blacks are disproportionately affected by STDs, but Kinsey emphasized that STDs can affect everyone and that the community as a whole needs to be aware of how to prevent and combat them.

In addition to student presentations, Bobby Davis, the HIV/AIDs regional program coordinator at the Alachua County Health Department, and Dr. Nancy Hardt, the director for health disparities and service learning programs at the University of Florida, will give presentations.

There will also be time for community dialogue, Kinsey said.

“We need our community to see themselves as stakeholders in this issue. The people affected are in our schools, churches and neighborhoods,” he said. “We can’t be ignorant to the fact that what we have done isn’t working. We need to take action as quickly as possible — and do so independent of any form of government.”

Kinsey said he anticipates about 200 people to attend, including many students and families.

“One of the best (types of) promotion is word of mouth. If we can have 200 people who now have this information in their heads, who knows how many people they can reach with the information by this time next week,” Kinsey said.

The meeting, which is free and open to the public, starts at 6:30 p.m. and will be held at the Alachua County Health Department at 224 SE 24th St. in Gainesville. Dinner will be provided.

Contact Kristine Crane at 338-3119, or kristine.crane@gvillesun.com.

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