LOUISVILLE, Ky. — Renarda Allen says the stash of condoms at the Volunteers of America Health Outreach and Prevention is valuable.
“We have hundreds of thousands of condoms that we might distribute in a whole year’s time,” says Allen.
It’s just one way VOA Health Outreach and Prevention is working to reduce the spread of sexually transmitted infections and diseases.
The Louisville center also provides confidential HIV testing, education and post-diagnosis guidance.
Approximately 1.2 million people nationwide are living with according to hiv.gov.
Program manager Marsha Lee calls the center a haven.
“Stats have proven that it’s on the rise in Louisville, Kentucky. Basically in our underprivileged underserved community, west end of Louisville,” says Lee. “A lot of people don’t even know that they have it.”
Leading up to World Aids Day, VOA staff did outreach across the city as part of its five days of awareness educating different communities about how HIV is contracted, prevention and care options.
“It’s a conversation that needs to be started amongst people who are sexually active with one another. It’s things like that, that bring us to the reason of why we have HIV today,” says Lee. “It’s not just as the stigma says, a gay man’s disease. It’s everyone’s disease.”
Staff also shared safe sex tips and supplies.
“I was a young mother. Had I known about certain things, certain protection measures, stuff like that, it could really change the way I probably drove through life,” says Allen.
That’s why she is passionate about her role in leading the youth outreach and prevention program.
“If you can teach adolescents the proper way to use condoms, it really saves a lot because right now the youth population is the highest next to the elderly, and STDs in globally actually,” says Allen.
Allen says in the fight against HIV and AIDS, everyone plays a part.
“You can’t really test out of an epidemic but you can provide education, you can provide awareness and I think that’s the biggest thing to me is being able to be a tool to be out in the community providing those services letting everybody know that hey these are all of the things you can use to protect yourself,” says Allen.
She believes spreading awareness will normalize getting tested.
“Knowledge is power, knowing is half the battle, and you don’t have to live with a status that you don’t know about,” says Allen.
She also wants people to know that her team is there to help, no matter their status.