It's a hard truth some people don't want to hear: HIV infection is on the rise in the African-American community, and Dr. Johnnie Myers is doing everything she can to keep people healthy. She is the director of the Get In The Know HIV/AIDS/Substance Abuse and Hepatitis Prevention Project at Savannah State University.
“It’s a program that trains peer educators,” Myers says. “We meet with students on our campus and give Powerpoint presentations about how HIV is transmitted, risky behaviors and how to avoid risky behaviors.”
Unprotected sex isn’t the only risky behavior that can result in transmission of HIV. “Any time you transfer blood or bodily fluids, even tattooing, it can result in HIV transmission,” Myers says.
Programs and musical concerts have been held to attract the community at large. Up next is a reality play called Juice about sex and sensibilities. It’s the story of Paul, a young attorney who has been diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.
Paul wrestles with his relationship with his girlfriend NeQua, while his “boys,” his Pentecostal evangelist mother, Mildred, and his sister, Mary Ruth, all have secrets of their own.
“Juice is one of our community activities,” Myers says. “We are again trying to get the word out. HIV in the African-American community is very devastating.”
This year, Myers asked Dr Ja A. Jahannes to write an original play. It is being directed by Teresa Michelle Walker of the SSU drama department, and performed by SSU’s Players By the Sea.
“Dr. Jahannes is such a talented man,” Myers says. “We couldn’t have asked for a better person to write the play for us. Churches have made it part of their mission to educate the African-American community about HIV.”
Myers stresses that the play is for mature audiences because of adult situations, language and content. “It’s not that we don’t want younger people to know, but we don’t want them to come in and hear language their parents don’t want them to hear right now,” she says.
What: Juice, a reality play. When: April 17, 18 and 19 at 7 p.m. Where: Savannah State University's Kennedy Fine Arts Auditorium. Cost: Free and open to the public.