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MEDIA ADVISORY

November 30, 2006

Thometta Cozart
(850) 245-4111
Cathy Schroeder
(850) 245-0413

Florida Departments of Health and Education Partner to Increase Youth Awareness on World AIDS Day
Agencies join together to address HIV/AIDS in the youth and minority populations

TALLAHASSEE — Florida Department of Health Minority Health Director, Deanna Wathington, M.D., MPH, FAAFP, and Florida Department of Education HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Coordinator Ksena Zipperer will speak at the second annual "Protecting Our Youth" symposium in St. Lucie County on Friday, December 1 in recognition of World AIDS Day. Friday's event, which will include a press conference and DVD unveiling, is from 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m. at the Indian River Community College Kight Center at 3209 Virginia Avenue in Ft. Pierce, Fla.

"DOH and the Office of Minority Health are committed to helping Florida communities break down the barriers caused by silence and lack of awareness regarding HIV and AIDS," Wathington said. "World AIDS Day is an opportunity to educate Florida residents and stress the importance of addressing HIV/AIDS within the community, especially among youth. We are encouraging individuals to adopt healthy and safer lifestyles for prevention, to get tested to know your status and seek treatment if you are infected."

This year, World AIDS Day provides a unique opportunity to strengthen partnerships within the African-American community secondary to the release of the DOH report entitled, "Silence is Death: The Crisis of HIV/AIDS in Florida's Black Communities." The report focuses on white, black and Hispanic persons living with HIV/AIDS (reported cases). The report quantifies racial/ethnic disparities and ranks the top 20 counties in the state accordingly. St. Lucie County topped the list with one in every 35 African-Americans in the county living with HIV or AIDS.

"The Florida Department of Education, Coordinated School Health, HIV/AIDS Prevention Education Program is pleased to partner with the Department of Health in their efforts to increase awareness of HIV and AIDS during the World AIDS Day Symposium," Zipperer said. "We hope to positively impact the health of Florida students through our collaborative efforts. Working together to prevent Florida youth from being involved in behaviors that put them at risk for contracting HIV is a priority of both agencies."

Wathington's presentation will highlight the state's efforts of increasing HIV/AIDS awareness, promote prevention, and support community-based organization programs and services. And Zipperer's presentation will center on promoting the prevention of HIV/AIDS and STDs, along with unplanned pregnancy, to youth by engaging parents, school districts and community partners in the prevention process.

The Office of Minority Health improves the health of racial and ethnic populations through the development of programs that address disparities and health gaps. DOH promotes and protects the health and safety of all people in Florida through the delivery of quality public health services and the promotion of health care standards. For more information about minority health please visit the DOH Web site at www.doh.state.fl.us.