Basic NWFL, Inc. prevention specialist Deneika Roulhac has been conducting HIV tests every day for the last 8 years.
But Monday was special for her.
“I feel like by knowing your status, it’s next to knowing your social security … It’s the importance of knowing where you stand when you get ready to talk about your personal health,” said Roulhac.
Monday has been ‘National HIV Testing Day’.
Roulhac says conversations about HIV and AIDs rarely took place in Marianna when she was growing up.
She said she sees the same problem now.
“It’s a stigma here, you know you don’t talk about it. Our school system teaches abstinence only, with education classes in there. But just getting out there saying hey you can prevent getting this virus just by using condoms, just by not sharing your needles,” said Roulhac.
Roulhac also said HIV affects everyone.
“We just don’t have teenagers here, we don’t have low-income testing housing that comes in to test. We have people from all walks of life or anyone that has unprotected sex,” said Roulhac.
Basic Program Manager Pamela Williams agrees.
“Those people visit other counties, they don’t stay in their county…But we can’t look at it as just our only county. We gotta look at it as a whole. When you look at something as a whole, the number are really huge,” said Williams.
From January through April there have been 15 news cases of HIV diagnosed in the 6-county area including Bay, Calhoun, Gulf, Holmes, Jackson, and Washington counties.
Statewide there are nearly 2,400 new cases.
“We’re not as big as California, New York, or Texas yet our rates are just as high if not higher than some of those other states.”
Roulhac ultimately wants people to be familiar the big three t’s talking, getting tested, and taking action.
“I like the three T’s. What are the three T’s; just talk about it. That’s the biggest thing just talking about it. Because if you haven’t been using condoms, and now you’ve gotten the knowledge, now that you know better you what? You do better,” said Roulhac.