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Category: HIV / AIDS Articles

by Brianna Ford

December 09, 2015

Decisions, Decisions: Sexual Health Education or Mental Health

Public Health Education is such a broad field of study, with a vast selection of areas to choose from. There’s tobacco, global health, epidemiology, climate change and a host of others. Out of these various topics, I find myself drawn to a few that seem to peak my interest: Sexual/Reproductive Health education, Domestic Violence, and Suicide/Depression. I haven’t decided exactly which area I want to focus on after graduation, but I have tried to educate myself on these topics.

My interest in Sexual Health came about in my Human Sexuality class that I took my first semester in the Health Education department. At first I only took it because I just need another health elective to take and didn’t think anything of it. We discussed so many things in that short amount of time and I was hooked ever since. My professor has been very influential in my decision to teach sexual health education.

      

On the weekend of November 21st, I had the privilege to volunteer at the 10th Annual Teen Talk Lock-In for the Wake County Health Department. It was an all night, interactive sexual health education workshop for teens. The key areas of focus were attitude & mindset, healthy lifestyles, and access to resources. They had 5 workshops on building positive and healthy relationships, coping and looking forward to positive outcomes, what love is and how to communicate your love to others, understanding your body inside and out, respecting different lifestyles and identities, and also the importance of Sexual Health Education and HIV/STI testing. I was able to go from session to session with the kids and observe the different speakers, my professor being among them. Seeing them interact with this age group, 12 to 17 year olds, further convinced me that I need to do sexual health education. I would like to further help in the fight to make sex a normal thing to talk about in everyday conversation.

October was Domestic Violence Awareness Month, and I was appointed Chair of the 2nd Annual Women’s Empowerment Program for our Department of Health Education at North Carolina Central University. The purpose of this year’s program was to increase awareness of Intimate Partner Violence (IPV) and its correlation to HIV incidence among college women, through education, empowerment, and condom usage. The goal of the program was to empower young college women to RESPECT themselves in order to PROTECT themselves from HIV. Our keynote speaker and founder of Healing after Domestic Violence (HAD). Her story was so powerful, there wasn’t a dry eye in the house. The program targeted 18 to 24 females on campus. Being in the city of Durham, the young ladies on campus are bound to meet and maybe even start relationships with boys on campus as well as from the surrounding areas. For many of these girls, it is their first time away from home, without direct supervision, and they are likely to take advantage of that. Unfortunately for them, not everyone they deal with will have their best intentions at heart. What can start out as a sweet and loving relationship, can go really south, really fast. The program highlighted signs of domestic violence and where to seek help. There were also booths set up, by myself and my fellow Public Health Associates, showcasing different Social Marketing campaigns focused on Intimate Partner Violence. Resources that are available on campus also had booths set up.

       

In my research class, we had to choose a health topic to do research on. Normally, I would chose HIV/AIDS, but this time I did suicide and depression, focusing on African American women. I was very surprised that it was hard to find almost any articles on my target population. I’m talking about hours and hours of searching for an article even remotely focusing on depression or suicide in African American women. It was alarming to me, and made me think why no one had decided to do any research on this underserved population, in this regard. As a part of the aforementioned population, I personally know that depression is real in the African American community. There is also a stigma attached to it. I’ve heard people say “Black people don’t get depressed. That’s only crazy white people. Just get over it.” What people don’t realize is that downplaying anyone’s feelings of depression is not helping them at all, and possibly even worsening it, leading them to suicide. If I were to choose this as my final area of focus, I would definitely want to go into research regarding African American women and teenagers.

     

I wasn’t sure how Public Health Education was going to work out for me when I first transferred to the department, but I soon found my place. I chose to focus on these topics for various reasons. I know people who don’t know how some STIs are transmitted and don’t know how to use condoms properly. I know others who have been in abusive relationships, not even realizing that they were in one, and not want help trying to leave the person. That hurt me, that as their friend, they didn’t want me trying to help them. I, myself, struggle with my own depression, and dealing with it. There is always someone who needs public health education and resources, and as a future health educator, I am working hard so that one day I can help others with their problems.

Follow @myhealthimpact on health and tech stories impacts #youngppl. #publichealth #mentalhealth #sexualhealth

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by Magaela Bethune

September 01, 2014

I’m in My Fourth Year… and Just Getting Started!

This month ushered in the start of my fourth year of graduate school. For the first time while in my Ph.D. program, I no longer felt like a young doe -- no tremor in my legs -- as I walked on campus to embark upon another school year. The confidence I now feel and clarity with which I view my objectives are undoubtedly attributable to the experience and knowledge I acquired over the summer. I was afforded the opportunity to work with executives at the Black Entertainment Television (BET) Networks on their youth initiatives during the BET Experience and BET Awards show weekend in Los Angeles. I also launched two web usability studies for the Graduate School at my university. Finally, I put the finishing touches on a thesis and am now shifting my focus to my comprehensive paper and dissertation.

These are exciting times now. Until recently, keeping up with coursework, dealing with a health issues (breast cancer survivor!), managing work/family/life balance, and conducting supervised research have all encompassed my graduate school experience. Now, I am able to craft and develop my own scholarly identity. My research interests focus on youth engagement with new media and digital technologies, the ways it impacts their health, and more specifically their sexual health, behaviors, and development. My incoming interest in the topic solidified through my work with the Pathways to African American Success (PAAS) project, a family-based intervention designed to reduce risk behaviors of rural African American youth.

           

Through my classes, I was able to explore the issue of HIV/STI infection and transmission among youth in the United States, and particularly among African American youth. HIV/ STI among American youth is a major public health problem. In 2010, youth ages 13 to 24 years old constituted one-fourth of all new HIV infections in the United States (U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention [CDC], 2014). Further, the CDC estimates that nearly 60% of HIV-infected youth are not aware of their HIV-status. Similarly, youth ages 15 to 24 years old, who make up 27% of the nation’s population, account for 50% of the 20 million new STIs in the U.S. each year (CDC, 2013). My research and dissertation will consider the ways that youth are formally and traditionally socialized regarding sexual health and risk, and the challenges, threats, and opportunities introduced by the recent rise in digital technology access, utilization, and digital media consumption. Congruent with these foci are the aims of MyHealthImpactNetwork, which involves leveraging technology to promote sexual, mental, and physical health. I look forward to engaging with @drfayonline and the #myHealthImpact organization (@myhealthimpact on Twitter), designed for – and by - college students interested in improving health and reducing health disparities. Fun times ahead… and I’m just getting started!

Magaela Bethune is a Ph.D. student at Vanderbilt University in the Community Research & Action program. Her website (www.magaelabethune.com) features curated content related to youth, technology, and health. Upon graduation, she plans to continue research informing the development of health interventions that leverage digital technology and media for youth.

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by Dr. Fay Cobb Payton

July 22, 2014

Black America’s Silent Epidemic – Outtake of @OWNTV @Lisaling – Our America

We watched the June 26, 2014 Our America series on OWN.  In this series, journalist Lisa Ling covered the HIV epidemic in Black America. Our team watched intently and followed the Twitter hashtag during the show.  What would be different about this coverage?  How would the Black community be portrayed? Would this be, yet, another depiction of all things wrong in and with the community?  How would it reach young people, the millennials?

Here are comments below from the research scholars (millennials) on the MyHealthImpact team and their thoughts on the series. Comments have been shorten for this blog post.

After watching the show, I realized that there are still more progress/action to be taken surrounding the HIV/AIDS epidemic. Especially, when it comes to church involvement, I was taken back when only “one” church had replied saying that they would allow the woman to speak/tell her story. I feel like the stigma and judgment still remains in the church. The fact that a church made an individual feel inferior baffled me. Also, from watching the episode, it’s important for people to get tested regular. Knowing you status, as well as, your partner’s status is important..  Overall, I enjoyed the episode and thought it was informative and did a great job of depicting several stories of people battling/dealing with HIV. I think we need more documentaries/programs like this, which educate and spread awareness on the issue.
 
I thought that HIV in the Black Community by Lisa Ling was a fantastic program. It was truly touching to hear African Americans open up to their personal battles with HIV. This goes to show that there is no one specific way that you can obtain the disease. Each person had their story, testimony proves that this is still a serious topic within our community. What really stuck out to me was the fact that people didn’t want to attend the free HIV testing event because of the stigma that the disease carries. This was very hurtful to hear because regardless to whatever [virus] any individual may have, it does not take away the face that they are still first and foremost a HUMAN. I can only imagine the stares, gossip and bickering that takes place when people find out that someone they know has HIV. This episode allowed me to see things from a different perspective. You never truly know what it feels like being in someone else’s shoes.


The program was really informative. The part that really stuck out the most to me was probably when one of the men stated he expects to only live to his mid-thirties. I was trying to think to how depressing that could be. Not only did he know he know that he is infected, but he has also gone untreated for a lengthy period of time. Also I’m not surprised that people didn’t show up to the free HIV event. No one wants their life to change; they want to be comfortable with their respective lifestyle without restrictions. This lifestyle is important to uphold, especially with your family. When one of the women shared with her family that she has HIV, I couldn’t imagine how her family felt. That’s like hearing if one of my siblings were infected. Of course they’re still going to be my siblings, but I would continually sympathize with them. Overall the program was good and the twitter response was very responsive as well.
 
This broadcast was really good and extremely informative. The broadcast was a good reminder of a lot of HIV facts and information that tend to get lost because we focus so much on the sexual transmission of the infection. We tend to overlook the fact that some people may be born with it or became infected through the use of needles. When I think about someone becoming infected, in my mind I automatically think about someone being promiscuous and not someone contracting it from her husband who she thought she could trust. The broadcast shed light on the situations that we fail to think about. I was completely tuned in locked on the screen. Sad to see the show end and really wishing that the broadcast was on a channel that could be seen by more of the masses because this was definitely one that everyone needed to see.

Follow us @myhealthimpact on Twitter.  See myhealthimpactnetwork.org for additional content and health information.

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by Dr. Fay Cobb Payton

June 25, 2014

Here We Are Again

Here we are again.  June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.  Based on the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), over 1 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV.  The data are even more pointed – as Blacks/African Americans account for 44% of the population living with HIV.

Michel Martin of National Public Radio (@TellMeMoreNPR) discussed HIV and the Black church during a December 2013 segment. Listening to the segment with the @myhealthimpact research scholars who were, then, undergraduate college students raised many reactions.  These reactions are shown below:

The diagram speaks to the following reactions; some of which were of surprise to the young adults:

  • Wow. Half of million!
  • My church has never talked about HIV/creates stigma
  • Great that this TX pastor (in the NPR segment) is offering HIV testing
  • OMG! The ratio of black mean affected with HIV is almost the same of black men in the jail (1/16 and 1/15)
  • What IS this stigma surrounding HIV…statistics do not lie because the facts are there!
  • Why is the congregation ahead of their leadership—bold statement!

After recently watching the HBO special, The Normal Heart, I asked the team what did they learn?  While the special was described as graphic and provided a “visual”, one of scholars offered a few parting words:

“What I learned about HIV awareness has come from this project.  We were born in the mid-90s, so the visuals and impact of the virus is not with us.  We were not born when Magic made his announcement.  The connection is somewhat difficult and missing for us”. 

Powerful and even more reason to “Know Your Status”.  June 27 is National HIV Testing Day.  See the myhealthimpactnetwork.org link to HIV testing centers in your area.


                  

Follow us @myhealthimpact on Twitter and on Tumblr.

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by Christian Faith Baptist

June 24, 2014

National HIV Testing Day

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by Ebony Baldwin

March 06, 2014

The TURN UP: Spring Break Safety

With Spring Break literally around the corner, college students everywhere, and I mean EVERYWHERE are gearing up to travel to distance and tropical places to soak up some sun and jump in the water. While most students are only concentrating on getting that last minute workout in for washboards abs or purchasing their last minute wardrobe findings, I guarantee no one is thinking about STDs!

Instead, most college students are thinking about fun, alcohol and parties. Don’t get me wrong, nothing is wrong with having fun and of course making lifetime memories, BUT be SMART about it! Don’t forget about your morals and values, or should I say “home training”. Have “responsible” fun.  Yes, spring break is about having a good time and getting away from the books, but don’t be naive. 

Drink Responsibly

Personally, do yourself a favor and party smart. Pace yourself if you choose to drink, and avoid hard alcohol if you can or other drinks that are powerful and have fast effects—cause drunks make for “easy targets”. 

According to a study by the University of Wisconsin, 75 percent of college males and 43 percent of females reported being intoxicated on a daily basis during spring break. Which brings me to another point of discussion; don’t let alcohol blur the lines of love! There is no such thing as “I want to get to know you” or “love at first sight” during spring break! Just lust, deceitful lies, and sexual transmitted diseases! So, be smart and not STUPID!

Stay Safe: Safe Sex, Know Your Facts and Know Your Status

The only 100% sure way to prevent sexually transmitted diseases is by not having sex. If you choose to have sex with a stranger—which isn’t best idea—use something called   “condoms”. We are college students, so this should not be hard.  Stock up on protection before you leave home so you never find yourself in a compromised situation. If this isn’t enough for you, here are the facts:  Women are more likely to be victims of sexual violence than men. Women who experience both sexual and physical abuse are significantly more likely to have sexually transmitted diseases. Take precautions and avoid situations or persons that may place you at risk for harm. Decide before even going on spring break what you’re willing to do, and then get to work setting your boundaries early and often. If you meet someone and decide to shack up, be up front with him or her if sex isn’t in the plan. Maybe something like, “Hey good lookin’. I’ve had fun this evening, but no sex tonight.” But seriously, don’t ever let anyone talk you into doing something you’re uncomfortable with. 

Keep Safe and Hang With Your Friends

Lastly,  “if you go out with your friends, go home with your friends.” It’s one of those things that keeps you a whole lot safer, and eliminates the bad, ugly, and stupid drama. This way you can look out for one another, and get a friend home who is too intoxicated to be out. So this spring break, think a little bit before you act! I’m sure that one week of fun is not worth your life! Don’t turn up too much, so that you look like a fool!

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by Ebony Baldwin

March 06, 2014

Are Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STD’s) still a taboo subject?

Sexually Transmitted Diseases, STDs, have become a topic of discussion that many people feel uncomfortable talking about and try not to think about them, hoping they will go away. As of now there are more than 25 diseases that are transmitted sexually. The organisms, which can cause these diseases usually, enter the body through mucous membranes—such as the surfaces of the vagina, urethra, anus, and mouth.

Listing of Common STDs

How are Sexual Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Caught?

Sexually transmitted diseases can be caught through intimate contact with someone who is infected, especially during oral, anal, or vaginal sex. However, some infections are also transmitted nonsexually. Sexually active college-age men and women are at the highest risk for contracting STDs. With that said, it is important for college students to use protection and get tested regularly.

Symptoms of STDs can be unnoticeable and can lead to more issues if not treated. As adults, it is our responsibility to stay educated on the topic of STDs and continue to utilize health institutions for help and guidance.

If that isn’t enough motivation for you, below are some examples of STDs and images of their effects. I hope this information gives you the courage to help spread the awareness of this issue and practice safe sex, as well as, getting tested.

Pictures of Common STDs

 

  

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by Julian Cobb

February 27, 2014

Condoms Don’t Protect From Everything

Some people think they know everything there is to know about sexually transmitted diseases.  The possibility of catching gonorrhea, syphilis, or even HIV is a scary thought- but some have that perception that they won’t catch anything. Maybe you wear condoms during sexual intercourse so you think that you’re good and have nothing to worry about, right? Well, I must inform you that condoms don’t protect from everything. Even some of the most elite individuals in society are walking around with sexually transmitted diseases. Yes- this is not a joke. 

Did You Know Condoms Have a Fail Rate?

Statistics show that condoms have an annual 11% fail rate. Not so safe as you imagined after all… Even when condoms are used, they do not fully protect from sexually transmitted diseases that are passed by skin-to-skin contact. Just this statement alone opens the door for many diseases to walk in and take residence in your body if you are not careful. 

Here are some tips you can use in order to lower your risk of catching an STD:

1. Get Tested. Use STD Testing to Know Your Status!

This may sound like an obvious answer but there are still so many people who do not know their std status. I will admit that you fear what you do not know. Having a close friend to go get tested with you can help eliminate that fear you have. That “what if” question will continue to linger until you make the decision to know you status for yourself. We have a specific area on the myHealthImpact website where you can type in your zip code and you will be informed of testing locations that are close to you.

2: Know the Safe Sex Facts For Yourself

There are so many resources available that will provide information on safe sex and sexually transmitted diseases. Saying that you were not informed anymore can no longer be an excuse. Sometimes you have to take the initiative to seek out information for yourself. Ultimately, how can you inform someone about STDs if you don’t know about them yourself?

3. Abstinence.

This is something that the younger generation doesn’t hear a lot about anymore. The media is constantly portraying sex in advertisements, song lyrics and online which makes it seem acceptable. Remaining abstinent until marriage is the only way you will be able to know your status for sure. You don’t run the risk of catching a sexually transmitted disease or early parenthood. This may seem challenging but it is possible. Make a promise to yourself that you will honor and protect your body. Anytime you find yourself being tempted, remember that promise you made to yourself. It will be worth the wait for that special someone.

                    

These diseases are REAL people. While all sexually transmitted diseases don’t lead to death, some of them do. Whether you continue to have sex before marriage or wait until marriage is totally up to you. Whatever you decide, I encourage you to be safe. While condoms do protect from some STDs, they don’t protect from everything. Just keep that in mind.

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by Victor Ajewole

February 16, 2014

Smart Condoms: Could These Be The Best Condoms Created to Date?

As we all know condoms do not prevent all sexual transmitted diseases (STDs) and sexual transmitted infections (STIs) during sex. Well why not build a better condom.  Last November the Bill and Melinda Gates foundation received over 812 entries for the “Build-a-better-condom” competition.  A reported 11 entries received a grant of $100,000 to produce their condoms and hopefully bridge the gap for condom innovation. This is where tech meets health.

Over the course of a long history, the condom hasn't changed that much.


Talk about a smart condoms. Some of these entries range from polymer based composite materials to biologically engineering material for a “significant enhancement for male pleasure.” These “next-gen” condoms may be what consumers are looking for when taking safe sex more seriously.

Developer Lakshminarayanan Ragupathy from Trivandrum, India, has an entry named “The warm embrace”, which incorporates composites for high heat transfer, but also drugs that would enhance safety.  Not only is his design super thin and strong, it’s also very flexible.

Now here’s a question, how much would you pay for a condom that you couldn’t feel and worked 99.99% of the time?

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by Keiara Morris

February 05, 2014

Exactly Who Were You Trying to Reach?

The My Health Impact team and I tuned into the “We Are Empowered” discussion and webcast via VH1 hosted by Alicia Keys. This was a really good and informative webcast but I found myself completely disappointed that this was not aired on TV. This discussion would have been the perfect opportunity to open the door to discussion in homes, among friends and in relationships.

The women featured shared their own stories. To me their stories shed light on a different side of HIV that is very rarely shown. Who knew that having kids and maintaining a family was possible AFTER contracting HIV? I do, the My Health Impact team does, those that knew to go to VH1.com to watch know as well. As you can see, the fact that this was not showed on TV bothers me. This deeply bothers me because those that took the time to 

go watch were interested in watching whereas the majority that probably needed to be tuned in, probably did not know about the webcast at all. This makes me question, who was the target audience? Those that already have a pretty good concept of what HIV is or those that are ignorant of the issue? The discussion always come back to education and how the key to ending the stigma surrounding HIV is educating but how well was that accomplished with this? In my honest opinion, not very well.

Please don’t mistake my criticism as not thinking this was a great webcast and discussion via Twitter. I believe that the webcast was so good that it needed to be on TV for all to see.

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In Partnership with: Poole College of Management, College of Humanities and Social Sciences, National Science Foundation, Penn State

Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation.
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