Inside Our Mobile Unit, Big Bertha’.

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In-House Monday :)

Today, we prepared for the events that we would have for the upcoming week which included going to both college campuses, the University of West Florida and Pensacola State College. We are also planned to go to go to the PSC campus in Warrington and I’ll be having my very first staff meeting this Friday. While today, there weren’t any challenges as far as the work, the entire staff is experiencing difficulty due to the fact that our unit, Priscilla is still in the shop and has yet to be wrapped, so we have to take our other unit, Bertha which only one of our staff members can drive.

Until Next Time.

Worked: 4 hours.

Completed: 86 hours.

Deliverance Tabernacle’s Stomp Out The Violence Day!

Today, we went to the Stomp Out The Violence event which was organized by a group of mothers who have all lost a child to gang violence. There was music, food, games for the children, a few speakers, and also some presentations. It was amazing to see everyone to come together for a cause and I also realized that the violence here is way worse than I imagined. We did our testing and I also had the opportunity to network with people who are trying to do more events within the community and also on campus. 

Worked: 4.5 hours.

Completed: 116.5 hours.

June 11th-14th, Back To Campus & Staff Meeting!

On the 11th, I had the privilege of going to Pensacola State College. While it wasn’t the busiest I was able to meet a few students who were enrolled in the high school program at the college and talked to them about the benefits of protecting yourself and getting tested.

Worked: 6 hours.

On the 12th, we went to the UNIVERSITY OF WEST FLORIDA!! But, honestly, I didn’t know how it would work out due to the fact that I didn’t want anyone to feel uncomfortable or feel as if they couldn’t trust me with me testing them being that I currently go there and know a bit of the student population. To the contrary however, everything went beautiful and the a few of my friends even came and got tested. One of the biggest challenges however was the fact that we’re on a college campus during the Summertime and honestly, the population is so high during this time. Therefore, there were many parts of the day that dragged on during the heat.

Worked: 8 hours.

On the 13th, we went to Pensacola State College again, but this time at the Warrington campus. It was a completely different scenery and we actual did good as far as numbers with our testing. Just like UWF, this was also slow and some parts dragged on. However, working with my lovely staff, we got through the day just fine.

Worked: 6 hours.

FRIDAAAYYYYYYY the 14th! Today, I went to my first staff meeting and it was honestly, a blessing. We talked about the Mobile Testing Unit (MTU) which still isn’t finished, the amount of tests we’ve done and our positivity rate. At the end of the meeting, we went around the table and everyone had the chance to say whatever it was they wanted to say to anyone on our staff. One of my co-workers pretty much, thanked me for being there and stated that I work so hard you would think I was getting paid there and honestly, that meant a lot to me. Another one, sat me down and told me to continue pushing towards my goals and dreams and that she was proud of me and everything I was doing.

After the meeting, I was also asked whether I wanted to go to Escambia County Jail and do testing and of course, I said yes! Most people would be scared I guess but honestly, I was excited. We went into one of the “nurse’s/clinic” rooms, set up and started doing the inmates. Afterwards, we had to go on each floor and get all the people who denied testing to sign a form and also, state why they denied services. While, we did have to deal with a few inmates who testerone levels were a bit high. It was a great experience. 

Worked: 6 hours.

Completed: 112 hours.

On Monday, we went to Attucks Court and on Thursday, we went to Oakwood Terrace also known as Truman Arms. If you ask anyone who’s from the area of Pensacola they’ll more than likely tell you that both of these neighborhoods are considered the “hood”, “projects”, or “ghetto” and  honestly, they are. But during our events there this week I was able to see into the communities’ soul. I also had a reality check and realized that while I am a HIV counselor there are various other aspects to this job and it includes the children of the community that you come in contact with. I had the privilege and getting to meet about fifteen children and being able to take some time out and speak with them. I was even able to talk to them about HIV and spread some knowledge. I did notice two things… The guys were more willing to get their friends tested with them or to bring friends to us while most women were reluctant. However, it didn’t surprise me. Society and gender norms have made it seem un-“lady-like” to get tested for sexually transmitted diseases or to ask for a bag of condoms. 

Worked: 12 hours.

Completed: 73 hours.

*Above pictured are some of the children and myself in Truman Arms.

Escambia County Juvenile Detention Center

Today was the day I longed for. I was finally able to go to the Escambia County Juvenile Detention Center (ECJDC) where we not only do testing but we also do educational classes. However once we arrived we soon found out that school (for some reason or another) was cancelled. We were then asked whether we wanted to go into the mods (their equivalent of dorms/living quarters) to do the testing, however that journey was soon cut short due to the facility being under-staffed and just too much going on within the facility itself. We told the LT that once they had everything in line to call us back and we’d return to do the testing. One of the main lessons that I took from the ECJDC was that you must always be on your feet and always realize that things will happen and miscommunications will occur. We returned to the office and finished previous homework and I actually was able to do my first in-office testing. It was the client’s first ever HIV test and boy, was he nervous. He had actually came in with his little sister who told him that he needed to get tested. After I completed his testing, I was able to speak with her and basically tell her “good job!” because we have to look out for one another. 

Worked: 9 hours.

Completed: 82 hours.

El Bethel in Wedgewood Neighborhood Community Event - Stop The Violence!

Today we have the privilege of being able to come to a community event hosted by a group of parents who have all lost a child to gang violence in the streets in Pensacola. While this event was just like the others it was amazing to be able to speak with the citizens and hear their stories as they got tested. 

One issue that I’m finding to become quite common is just how uncomfortable some people are to talk about sex. As I was testing today, I ran across numerous people who were quite uncomfortable with many of the questions about their sex life. 

Worked: 6 hours.

Completed: 61 hours.

First Friday In The Office.

Today was a very slow day as they told me they would be. Today was so slow, we were able to close up the office a couple hours early. While it was still slow, we were able to still process some labs and I was able to look on. Jessica, one of our nurses allowed me to see the lab process of the test once we get someone who happens to be reactive. She also sat and talked to me about finding her first positive which happened at Memorial Day Weekend. I love how in the organization, everyone is willing to be a mentor and to help guide me through this process. I love how everyone is like a family at this establishment

Worked: 2.5 hours.

Completed: 55 hours.

Memorial Day Weekend Aftermath: Just Another Day In The Office.

Today, we were suppose to be out in the mobile unit doing testing however, it is currently in the paint shop getting “wrapped”, therefore we had to cancel all mobile events for the week… Which meant that I’d be in the office for the first time. Unlike the unit, the office is quite calm besides all the personalities flowing from the employees for the simple fact, that many people don’t come in-house unless it’s for one of our wellness clinics or an organization bringing people who may already be infected. Today, I literally sat and learned how to properly process and prepare our paperwork so that it could be sent off to the appropriate departments within Tallahassee and Jacksonville. I would say being in-house is completely different from being out in the mobile unit due to the fact that some days, all we will do is process and prepare. I actually thought I wouldn’t enjoy this aspect but I found myself looking at it from another perspective. Not only am I learning how to become efficient in testing and counseling but I’m also learning the business aspect. For Memorial Day, we were told that we must test at least 500 people to obtain a grant. However, we only tested around 370. To the contrary, we were able to obtain the grant because (come to find out), the grant was actually based on the amount of positives we obtained. We obtained 5 and from our organization’s perspective and the agency funding the grant, 5 was enough. To date for this month, we’ve tested over 800 people and we’ve found 8 positives, which is quite well and puts that ratio at almost 1:100.

Worked: 6 hours.

Completed: 52.5 hours.

Day Two of Memorial Day Weekend!!

Well, today.. I was more aware of what I was facing but this location was right in the middle of the chaos. We were in the parking lot adjacent to the boardwalk and beach and the people there were filled with energy. When we arrived, it was somewhat slow but it sped up quite fast. We saw people from almost all over the nation across all demographics. There was a point in time in which we were backed up because so many people were coming in to get tested, it was exciting! By myself, I did 21 test and it just flowed like water because it was becoming so natural to me.

I was also able to meet and talk to someone who is HIV+ and have been living with the disease for 27 years. It was incredible to hear his story and he even allowed me to test him so that I would know how a reactive result would read.

One of the things that amazed me the most was the fact that people who were getting tested started telling everyone they saw and knew to come by and learn their status. I also met a bunch of couples who came to get tested together and that brought a smile to my face. I encouraged all those who stated they were in a relationship to make sure their partner also got tested because they’re both putting themselves at risk every time they have sex.

I also had the privilege of getting invited to ”hang” with some of  the people we tested and two men both opened up to me and told me their stories of how they became HIV+. Just listening to these stories made me realize why I’m doing exactly what I’m doing and this internship is such a blessing to me.

Worked: 9 hours.

Completed: 46.5 hours.