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If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem

Black Treatment Advocacy Network (BTAN)

If you aren’t part of the solution, you are part of the problem

By Yolonda Reed, Patricia Fleurinord and Karen Creary

 “Shall a trumpet be blown in the city and the people not be afraid?”  — Amos 3:6

       With Miami-Dade and Broward counties leading the U.S. in new HIV infections, the national Black AIDS Institute has launched a public-private treatment and training network, Black Treatment Advocacy Network (BTAN), to attempt to control the epidemic in South Florida. The hope is to gather Black Community leaders and advocates in the HIV/AIDS field and arm us with the skills and tools we need to effectively mobilize our community against this disease.

      Recently, the second of a two part training was held in Fort Lauderdale.

      Topics such as health disparities, stigmas and patient-provider relationships were discussed, as well as effective mobilization strategies, funding and myths. After the training, we spoke to Njideka Obijiaku, Training and Capacity Coordinator of BTAN, and asked her how does she feel the trainings went here in South Florida? She stated, “I think the atmosphere in South Florida is excellent. I believe there was wonderful energy, and I am very excited around the future of BTAN in South Florida. The energy is focused around doing the work in the Black Community and working together.”

      The three-day training was held at the Midtown Business Commerce Center, a “Green” building developed and owned by Sheryl Dickey of Dickey Consulting Services, in the heart of the Sistrunk Corridor. Representatives from a few AIDS Service Organizations (ASOs) in the Tri-County area attended the training.

      However, agencies such as Mount Olive Development Corp. (MODCO) and Broward Community & Family Health Center weren’t involved.

      Upon further research, it appeared that those two organizations weren’t even mentioned when BTAN inquired from the State possible Black ASOs to partner with here in South Florida while some others who were invited won’t even have their organizations associated with the mobilization efforts. For some, possible conflicts in funding are a contributing factor, while for others, well… when most people think of HIV/AIDS, they think of two words… “Sex. Gay Sex.” Of course, “condoms” and “I.V. drug use” pop up, too.

      Along with ignorance come myths, stigmas, discrimination, and inadequate access to quality healthcare and fear. That’s why this training is so important! You see, all of those diseased subjects contribute to us being so disproportionately infected and affected by this disease.

      In the coming months, BTAN South Florida will be working to develop the first of many mobilization efforts. In order for these efforts to be effective, the community MUST be involved. We must educate ourselves and others. Patricia Fleurinord, Program Manager, Broward House, stated, “I am my brothers’ and sisters’ keeper. It’s my responsibility to get educated and in turn, educate my community.”

      We must open our minds and our mouths. We must stand up for ourselves. If we don’t, who will? We must stop believing the lies that we tell ourselves! Yes, if you practice risky behaviors, you put your-self and/or your loved ones at risk! Co-Chair of BTAN South Florida, Karen Creary, stated, “We need to put the scare back in HIV/AIDS. The Black Com-munity is not afraid of it any-more. We also need to talk to our children about sexual health because seriously, HIV does not discriminate. For 31 years, this disease has been around, yet we are still testing positive. Something is wrong with that picture!”

      The first three-day training focused on science and treatment and clinical trials and was held in Doral at the Miami Dade Health Department in August. BTAN has been doing these trainings around the U.S. since 2010.

      BTAN’s goals are to empower Black Communities to strengthen their local healthcare infrastructure with the newest tools regarding testing and treatment options, as well as to provide information about new resources to support people living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. BTAN is sponsored in part by Merck & Co., Inc.

      To find out how you can get involved, contact program@blackaids.org or stop by the South each AIDS Project (SOBAP) office, located at 1033 W. Sistrunk Blvd. (Midtown Business Commerce Center), Fort Lauderdale, Fla., which is the lead agency for the community mobilization efforts.

 

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    About The Author

    Carma Lynn Henry Westside Gazette Newspaper 545 N.W. 7th Terrace, Fort Lauderdale, Florida 33311 Office: (954) 525-1489 Fax: (954) 525-1861

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