July 17, 2012
The Outreach Community Care Network held its first event at the John H. Dickerson Community Center in Daytona Beach on Saturday. An estimated one-third of Volusia County's 1,300 HIV/AIDS patients live in the 32114 ZIP code, which includes the Midtown neighborhood where the meeting took place.
The approximately 100 people who attended learned about HIV/AIDS issues as well as services available from Outreach, and were offered free HIV testing. "A lot of people, because of the stigma and discrimination that goes on with people who have HIV, they're scared to even find out if they have it," said Nicholas Harris, a prevention specialist with Outreach.
Cue Sampson, an Outreach medical case worker, was pleased with the turnout but hopes to see more people at next year's event. "It's very important that they get out and understand this disease is in their community," she said. She also wants to see middle-school and high-school students become better educated on the disease.
Wanda Edwards, a community member, agreed. "We've got to keep pumping [the information] to the kids because they're the future," she said.
One HIV-positive Daytona Beach man spoke about the discrimination he has faced in his own family. "This is the stigma we have to live with, and there's no excuse for it, none," said Gary Richardson, a member of the Positive Champions Speakers Bureau. "Don't be afraid to reach out and touch someone who's HIV-positive."