HIV/AIDS Awareness: Public Health

red ribbon Today is the start of our HIV/AIDS Awareness here at Hey Girl Hey!!!

So gather your notepad, pens and friends,  move in closer and get informed on what is happening in our communities.

Introduce yourself to the HeyGirlHey readers please mam.

Hello, I am Latronda Davis, MPH and currently I work for Clayton County Board of Health as the HIV Linkage Coordinator. I have my Masters in Public Health (MPH) from Morehouse School of Medicine and a BS in Healthcare Management from Albany State University, and I was recently accepted into Emory University’s Nursing Program to become an RN. My professional background includes working with different federal, state, and local governments as well as with community-based organizations on various public health projects and outreach activities.

How did you become so passionate about Public Health?

Being involved in a public health internship with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Morehouse College, gave me the opportunity to see health in a different light. I was able to see preventive measure that were being implemented to safeguard the public’s health. That experience coupled with other practicum experiences, helped to form my passion and knowledge surrounding public health.

Most people wonder what public health is and when asked the question, I always say “public health is everything.” Everything we do involves public health. It is the science of protecting and improving the health of communities through education, promotion of healthy lifestyles, and research for disease and injury prevention. It involves the social determinants of health which include socioeconomic status, education, housing, access to health care, etc. These are shaped by social policies, politics and economics. I am passionate about public health because it is my everyday life, everyone, should be passionate about public health because it is you!

How did you become involved with HIV/AIDS Awareness?

I became involved with HIV/AIDS when I took my first testing in undergrad. The first test meant that I was taking control of my health, my life and I was not to allow anyone to be the determinant factor for my sexual health and well-being. After that, I interned with the South West Georgia Health District promoting STD and HIV awareness on my school campus. Years later, HIV fell into my lap again at a community based organization called STAND Inc., with whom I worked with for two years. Our primary work focused on substance abuse, domestic abuse, re-entry population as well as HIV/AIDS. I provided HIV testings and counseling to the public, as well as worked with HIV positive clients. 

Before becoming educated and involved with HIV/AIDS prevention, what preconceptions did you have about the disease, that you now know better about?

The only preconception I had about the disease is that it was only sexually transmitted. I learned about this disease very early in life and when I found out that it was transmitted more than one way, it made it clearer and helped me to understand the virus more. There are four modes of transmission: 1) vaginal fluids, 2) semen, 3) blood and 4) breast milk.

What are some of the steps being taken within the area of preventive care for HIV/AIDS?

Promoting condom usage, abstinence, encouraging individuals to get tested regularly and monogamy are the most effective preventive measures. HIV causes AIDS so the only way to prevent AIDS, is to prevent HIV. One preventive measure that is taking place is the implementation of the PrEP (Pre-exposure prophylaxis) drug. it is targeted towards individuals who do not have HIV, but who are significantly at a higher risk of of contracting HIV. The pill is to be taken once everyday and the effectiveness of this drug has been shown to reduce the HIV infection by 92%. But to reiterate, condom usage, abstinence, regular testing and monogamy are still the best ways to prevent the spread of the virus.

What are some changes would you like to see implemented in prevention and treatment of HIV/AIDS?

Right now, I think there should be more education about HIV and efforts to reduce the stigma around HIV to the public. Individuals with HIV are living long, healthy lives. It is not a death sentence. It is a result of a choice that was made. No one wants to have any type of illness, but we all make choices that result in some form of consequence that were not in our favor. In public health, we try to modify behavior so that make better choices. The better choices we make, the less likely we are to put ourselves at risk for disease.

Please tell us about upcoming programs with your organization.

June 27th is National HIV Testing Day; Clayton County Board of Health (Jonesboro, GA) will provide free HIV testing 5pm-7pm (we also offer free testing every Wednesday 9am-3pm)

Also CCBOH will partner with the local Walgreens Pharmacy in Clayton County to provide free testing June 26-28, 2014

Please visit these websites to find free and local testing sites in your area: www.claytoncountypublichealth.org and www.walgreens.com

Latronda

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