A Community Fights Back and Changes Things

One year ago the February issue of Essence Magazine named the city of Quincy as one of the largest HIV infected areas in the United States, but that's changing.

Some say money is the root of all evil, but when it comes to AIDS in Gadsden County the dollar is making a difference.

"The intention of the article was to help people, but in the way it was written a lot of people shied away from the testing and getting things done in the community," says Alma Venisse.

Keith Blocker is an AIDS educator in Gadsden County who's trying to change the perception folks have about HIV and AIDS.

"I'm hoping that HIV decreases. I'm hoping that people are aware of their status that's one of the things the state of Florida and the Florida Department of Health wants is that people know their status," says Keith Blocker, a Gadsden County AIDS educator.

There are several agencies in this community that can provide information and help those who are HIV negative as well as folks living with the deadly disease

"Everywhere that we look it has to be a reminder. It needs to be put on the bulletin board there needs to be an article written about it everywhere. There needs to be information in physicians offices about HIV/AIDS," says Nancy Gee, a Gadsden County grants coordinator.

And federal funds are making that happen. County officials received a grant from the U.S. Department of Health to get the message out about the disease.

"That grant helps the resident of Gadsden County because it educates on how they are at risk for contracting HIV/AIDS what their behaviors are and how they can protect themselves from contracting HIV/AIDS."

County officials believe if the article was written some 16 years ago, residents like Zigler might not be living with the AIDS virus.

"AIDS is nothing to be played with, and another thing, they should not have sex unless you're married and if you're gonna have sex use protection. There are all kind of ways to prevent from getting it," says Randall Zigler.

Keith blocker is encouraging folks to get tested so they will know their HIV status.

There are several agencies in the Big Bend area that can provide confidential testing. Blocker says if a person is HIV positive, that person will be able to get help right away.

Gadsden County Health Department: 850-875-7200

Investigating in Our Youth: 850-875-9274

Big Bend Cares: 850-656-2437

SHISA: 850-224-8717