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Prairie View welcomes the Deep South

By BriAna Franklin
On April 18, 2013

 The prevalence of HIV/AIDS in the black community is undeniable. Access to preventative and virus managing care in rural southern states disproportionately protects many in the black community.
 Lisa Biagotti brought the "Deep South" to Prairie View A&M University to express why HIV/AIDS awareness is important to preventing and living with HIV.
 "Deep South" made its first debut at the Human Rights Watch Film Festival in New York in June of 2012.
Touring around the country, Prairie View was the film's first stop at a historically black college and university.
The documentary follows the life of Joshua Alexander, a gay HIV positive male, searching for a HIV retreat program in Louisiana.
Eventually Josh finds himself at HEROES, a HIV program that Monica Johnson, one of the film's panelists, once visited.
"Deep South" carries the themes of isolation, inertia, family, and home while catering to its overlying message to get educated and know your status.
Film director Biagotti, Johnson and Prairie View representatives Angela Branch Vital, an assistant health professor, and Greg Rose, 2009 PVAMU MBA recipient made up the panel following the film's ending.
Rose shared more information about the virus, "In order for you to get AIDS, your body has to shut down."
Also serving as Panther PhDs advisor, Rose said, "People can live with HIV for 10 or 20 years without the virus progressing. You just have to be healthy. You do not have to be a superstar or have money. The same things you should be doing without the virus like eating right, exercising, and taking your medicine will help you live a long and healthy life with HIV."
An attempt to educate the masses, the debut of "Deep South" tells a true story from the eyes of what many may consider the face of HIV/AIDS, a gay black male.
"The film follows Alexander but it shows the difficulties for many HIV/AIDS advocates. Often times they are making something out of nothing because there is not enough funding in the south for HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention," said Rose. "It pushed the rural south into the light while showing how dedicated the advocates are to the cause without being compensated."
HIV/AIDS statistics are usually based on the previous year. The rate of new cases have stabilized. Although infection rates are no longer on an extraordinary incline, people are still contracting the disease.
Black women lead other demographics in new HIV/AIDS cases.
"African American women are leading new HIV/AIDS infections but they are getting it from someone. There are more African American women than men going to test. Whatever is not tested is not reported either," said Rose.
Although the focus of the evening was HIV/AIDS, Rose shared the overall mission of the university's health center. "We are concerned about STDs as much as HIV/AIDS. You hear things about Prairie View, but no one comes into the center to ask questions. Our concern is education and prevention. We want to prevent what may happen to our students, said Rose.
Whether the message of HIV/AIDS is delivered through Biagotti's film or programs put on by Panther PhDs, the only sure way to prevent and treat the virus is to know your status and how the disease may affect you.
"Get educated. Know your status and your partner because what you do not know can kill you. The more you know the more equipped you are to protect yourself," said Rose. 

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