Groups work toward AIDS awareness

Today is World Aids Day, and people across the world are working toward “Getting to Zero”- this year’s theme for the event.

According to, the goals of “Getting to Zero” are zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

UNA’s Gay-Straight Alliance will have a table set up in the GUC today, where they will be passing out condoms and sharing information about the disease.

“We just want to let everybody know that it’s something everybody has to look out for,” said Jerry Saylor, public relations officer for the GSA.

Saylor said the GSA wants to make people aware that the disease affects the community as a whole, but there are ways to prevent it.

As of Oct. 1, a total of 93 cases were reported in Lauderdale County, according to

Jamie Brooks, a UNA senior and Miss Alabama contestant, has seen the disease firsthand. Brooks began working with the Birmingham AIDS Outreach program when she was a freshman in high school.

While working with the AIDS outreach program, Brooks developed a crush on a fellow volunteer. He was older, cute and had a car-a 15 year-old girl’s dream. He moved away and Brooks later found out that he was HIV positive.

“I always tell his story because he was such a ‘normal’ person,” Brooks said.

HIV/AIDS awareness is Brooks’ platform when she competes in pageants. Brooks will also be at the GSA table today.

Tia Gilbert, registered nurse at Lauderdale County Health Department and Area 1 HIV coordinator for the Alabama Department of Public Health, recommends abstinence as the best way to be protected from the disease. However, she said, anyone who is going to have sex needs to wear protection.

“If anyone is going to do anything, they need to protect themselves,” Gilbert said.

Gilbert administers HIV tests at the Lauderdale County Health Department building located on Chisholm Road in Florence.

Gilbert urges anyone who is sexually active to “know their status”-that is, get tested to know if you have HIV/AIDS or any other STDS. She said they also need to know their partner’s status.

Students interested in getting tested for HIV can go to the Lauderdale County Health Department in Florence. The Bennett Infirmary also offers STD testing that does not include the HIV test.