Fighting AIDS One Zip Code at a Time.
Of the many health issues affecting the black community one of the most prominent continues to be the spread of HIV and AIDS. Although African Americans do not engage in any risky behaviors that differ from the general population, the spread of HIV in black communities is up to 7 times higher than in other areas. One organization has put a great deal of time into analyzing this phenomenon and is doing something about it.
Do One Thing (http://www.1nething.com/) is a local organization dedicated to providing HIV screenings in local neighborhoods to help educate residents on their HIV status in the hopes of reducing the spread of AIDS in the black community.
Founded by Dr. Amy Nunn (bio) in 2010, Do One Thing provides door-to-door HIV screening and education services. Their focus is the Philadelphia area in the zip code 19143, which is part of the plan to focus on combating AIDS one location at a time.
Inner city areas with a high level of poverty generally have a much higher incidence of HIV. The 19143 area in Philadelphia is typifies that, as it has garnered an HIV rate 5 times higher than the national average. This phenomenon repeats itself across the country and it is this understanding of the intersection of geography, race and poverty that is key to combating AIDS in the "hotspot" areas in the US. "Where you live can place you at greater risk for contracting HIV. This is a social justice issue,” Nunn said in a recent interview with Generocity.org."
One of the reasons that the infection rate is so high and continues to grow (nationally at a rate of 50,000 per year) is that people who are unaware of their HIV status continue to transmit the disease. According to a recent study by Kaiser Family Foundation 20% of individuals who are HIV-positive don't know it, and they account for about 50 percent of new HIV infections. Recognizing that this is a major part of the HIV transmission problem, Dr. Nunn has formed this partnership with the Philadelphia community to face the problem head on.
Instead of focusing on getting people to test centers, Do One thing is focused on outreach; going out to the community to spread their message on testing and prevention. From door-to-door canvassing to testing via mobile vans, the goal of the group is to test 5,000 residents in the area.
One of the key components to the program is the partnering with local community to get the message out. By enlisting local clergy, community groups and individual volunteers it has been much easier to reach the community from within rather than having external (and potentially untrusted) doctors and professionals "descend" on the community. Billboards, lawn signs, murals are also tools employed to notify residents about the program. Taking advantage of the tools of the 21st century, Do One Thing is also utilizing facebook, twitter and other social media to spread the word.
Reaching out to get people tested is key, but an equally important part of the campaign is to educate people on their options, whether they are HIV positive or not. The good news about HIV in 2012 is that it is no longer a death sentence. People are living with HIV, thanks to the advancements of medicines in the last 20 years. Current statistics show that an HIV-positive person who takes their meds can expect to live as long as anyone. Equally as important, a person taking their medication and practicing safe sex has a less than 5% chance of transmitting the virus to a sexual partner (source). Without knowing your status however these facts mean nothing and this is why the work of DoOneThing and other groups like them is so important.
The Do One Thing program in Philadelphia is in its early stages. If statistics bear out its success in reducing HIV and AIDS it could serve as a national model. If you are interested in getting involved in the program you can contact the team via email at firstname.lastname@example.org or call at (215) 990-3338. For those wanting to stay up to date on daily activities, follow these facebook and twitter links (also provided at the top of this post).
For those not in the Philadelphia area, below are a few of many local programs you can participate in.
BLOCKS Campaign New York City
Bronx Knows New York City
Lead the Way San Diego
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