HIV AIDS Stigma and education

Local Man Continues Fight Against HIV/AIDS

Local Man Continues Fight Againts HIV/AIDS

By Sidney Simmons
Hometown News

Jeff Allen, Chairperson of the Partnership for HIV/ AIDS Planning of Daytona Beach, is one of the many soldiers on the frontline in the battle against AIDS. Since 1995, Allen has been working behind the scenes with community partners to make a difference. He is dedicated to empowering, improving and maintaining the quality of life for all persons living with HIV/AIDS.

One of Allen’s work duties is determining how to spend federal dollars designated for participants of the Ryan White Program in Volusia and Flagler counties. The program offers HIV positive persons assistance with services not covered under other programs. Allen is well known for his efforts in being a driving force in the efforts to expand the availability of HIV treatment, prevention, housing, advocacy and education programs to low income and disadvantaged families.

According to the Volusia County Health Department, there are slightly more than 1,400 people living with HIV/AIDS in Volusia and Flagler counties. Florida ranks third in the number of adult AIDS cases nationwide. With AIDS being a disease that has plagued the world for the last three decades, advocates like Mr. Allen are dedicated to raising awareness and saving lives. Mr. Allen is a member of the World AIDS Week Committee here in Daytona Beach. The committee has scheduled a number of events to recognize World AIDS Day.

Mr. Allen shares his personal feelings about the AIDS epidemic, why he’s working so hard to help others and why events such as World AIDS Day are so important.

Q: Why is it rewarding for you to work in the AIDS field?

A: It is important for me to be involved because the more we see positive influences by people that have HIV/AIDS working to end the fear and stigma of the disease, the quicker we will slow the progression of the spread of the disease. People that have experienced rejection and intolerance are afraid and rightly so. We see violence being demonstrated towards people who have HIV, even those who are not homosexuals. Until we work together to unite with one another and to combat healthcare disparities, the more people will senselessly die. I personally find this unacceptable! I also feel that since I have lived more than 26 years with this disease while many others have not, it is my responsibility to bring about awareness in the honor of those bright individuals who are not here today to carry the torch.

Q: What is World AIDS Day?

A: World AIDS Day, observed Dec. 1 each year, is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. It is common to hold memorials to honor persons who have died from HIV/AIDS on this day. Government and health officials also observe the event, often with speeches or forums on the AIDS topics. Since 1995, the President of the United States has made an official proclamation on World AIDS Day. Governments of other nations have followed suit and issued similar announcements. It is also a time for me to personally remember the bright light of the individuals that I have known who have passed from this disease.

Q: What do you hope to gain out of having a World AIDS Week? What message would you like to leave with the community at large today?

A: The week includes all populations of the community; men, women and children. It also includes all sexual orientations. The entire community is affected in one way or another. This is the vital message of every World AIDS Day: that AIDS does not discriminate. It can strike any member of your family if they don’t protect themselves and others. I’m sure my mother never thought her son would contract AIDS. It’s the same within all communities, third world or not. If we are not educated about how to protect ourselves, then we are at risk. If I could ask one thing from our community, I would ask them to be loving, and truly feel that NO ONE deserves to get this disease, whatever their background, orientation, color, or religious belief.

Q: What can community members do to help?

A: They can get involved in some way to promote education. The schools have limitations on them as to what they can and cannot teach. But as parents, we can decide what we want to talk about in our own homes. I can remember how I was amazed at how accepting my parents were of me when they found out I had HIV. I am sure that they would have educated me about this disease had they know about it themselves. But they did not know anything about it from their generation. I have talked to all of my nephews and family about the disease. They get it. My nephews have always known how to protect themselves. I pray they will never have to go through what I have had to go through living with this disease.

Q: What is the theme of this year’s World AIDS Day and why?

A: The theme for World AIDS Day 2011 is ‘Getting to Zero’. After 30 years of the global fight against HIV/AIDS, this year the global community has committed to focusing on achieving three targets: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero AIDS-related deaths.

Q: If there was ONE thing that you wished to accomplish at World AIDS Day this year, what would it be?

A: In 2009, there were 2.6 million new HIV infections and 1.8 million people died from AIDS globally. Moreover, in 2011 people living with HIV were still subject to restrictions on their travel and/or stay in 47 countries, territories and areas. And it was also true in the US until this year. Let’s all be more compassionate and work towards universal access (to care and medications) for everyone!

For more information regarding World AIDS Day events in Daytona Beach, visit www.worldAIDSweekdaytona.org.

World AIDS Week events

Monday, Nov. 28

World AIDS Week: “Let Us Not Forget” those who have been infected and affected, Joel Lawrence HIV/AIDS Organization. 6 p.m., at Antioch Freewill Baptist Church, 301 W. Beresford Blvd. in DeLand. For more information, call (386) 747-5504.

Wednesday, Nov. 30

A Talk on HIV/AIDS: Featuring Pastor John Long of Tubman-King Community Church and a panel of local pastors, counselors and community members, 6:30 p.m., at Greater Friendship Baptist Church, 539 George W. Engram Blvd. in Daytona Beach. For more information, call (386) 274-0662.

Thursday, Dec. 1

Interfaith Service of Healing and Prayer:

6 p.m. – Meet at grotto at Our Lady of Lourdes Church, 201 University Blvd., Daytona Beach, for candle lighting and speaker, then walk to Colin’s Park for a remembrance service.

7 p.m. – Interfaith Service inside the church, followed by a reception at Our Lady of Lourdes Church. For more information, call Father Phil Egitto (386) 255-0433.

Friday, Dec. 2

.I Didn’t Think it Could be, Until it Happened to Me… This HIV/AIDS Awareness Program will be held at 7 p.m., at Devine Deliverance Ministries, 836 Mary McLeod Bethune Blvd. in Daytona Beach. For more information, call (386) 631-8226.

For more information, visit www.worldAIDSweekdaytona.com

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