World AIDS Day Health Fair and House Ball Mixes HIV Awareness With Music and Fun
Organizers of a World AIDS Day event this weekend are hoping an evening of fashion and music will be an incentive for people to get tested for HIV and learn more about the disease. This year’s House Ball will be preceded by a health fair. Kareem Everett is program coordinator at the High Impact Prevention Strategy, or HIPS at Syracuse Community Connections.
"We don't do this event just to have a party or to have a ball. We do this to bring awareness to this community that's kind of sheltered."
His goal is to find recruiters who will use social media to let people know that they do HIV testing on site at the Center on South Ave. Community engagement specialist Joseph Ogletree says there’s still a stigma among communities of color.
"A lot of people think that it's very taboo, but we want people to get checked for HIV like you get checked high blood pressure. It's nothing to be embarrassed about, but it's something to be concerned about."
"It's not some type of abstract disease. It's seen as a chronic disease," said Merlin Marrain, director of health services.
"Looking at it from a holistic point of view, taking control of your health by getting tested, by knowing there are strategies in place such as PrEP."
She says Pre-exposure prophylaxis medicine can help people reduce their viral load, thus the risk of transmission. But Kareem Everett says while HIV rates are generally going down, the infection rate is increasing among black and brown populations.
"I hate to say that other races are getting tested, getting information, and becoming undtectable. But our community is lagging. That's why it's important for events like this to happen in our community where you're making a loud noise about it. You have to use a social events to even bring a community in to say 'this is exactly what's happening in your community.'"
The health fair and ball take place this Saturday at the Ramada Inn, 6555 Old Collamer Rd. in East Syracuse. The health fair runs from 11 to 3, and the ball from 7 to 2 a.m. Tickets to the ball are $25, but admission is free with attendance to the health fair.