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World AIDS Day community event: Getting resources to those most impacted

The Pinellas County Department of Health is partnering with organizations across the community to help share resources with those at risk for HIV/AIDS.

ST. PETERSBURG, Fla. — World AIDS Day was on Dec. 1, and organizations in the Tampa Bay area are working to get resources and information to the communities most impacted. 

The Pinellas County Health Department hosted a conference called "Ending the HIV Epidemic" at the Enoch Community Center. The conference shared a simple message: No matter your circumstance, there are people and resources available ready to help. 

"If you don't have health insurance, if you don't have finances, it doesn't matter," Darius Lightsey, the HIV/AIDS program coordinator, said. 

"If you don't have a place to live, there are resources that we can have available to us that can help."

One of the groups partnering with the county to help in sharing information and resources is The Banyan Tree Project

"One of the reasons we keep promoting safer sex and changing behavior is because so many people are getting infected with this disease," Executive Director of the Banyan Tree Project. J. Carl DeVine said. "And it doesn't have to be."

According to the CDC, Black and African American gay or bisexual men are affected more by HIV/AIDS than any other group. 26 percent of new cases in the U.S. fall into this category.

"What we know is that the abundance of new cases in this county is unfortunately among Black men," Lightsey said. "So many of the interventions that we are doing, we're partnering with community-based organizations..."

The hope is with each event held, it's a step towards removing the stigma and starting a conversation.

"We will keep holding events and keep trying to get people involved in their own lives and changing their own behaviors," Devine explained. 

For resources for HIV/AIDS in Pinellas County, click here.