USF public health student shares unique perspective on HIV/AIDS
When USF public health student Donald Post entered the College of Public Health Auditorium Thursday morning to deliver his Dean’s Lecture Series talk in recognition of World AIDS Day, few of the faculty, staff and students knew he was HIV-positive.
Then, without any introduction, the auditorium went dark and the audience watched a video of Post speaking candidly about how he contracted the AIDS virus in 2005 while working as an emergency medical technician at a North Florida trauma center. To watch the video, go to the Faces of HIV project and click on the link to Donald’s video.
When the lights came up, Post talked about his unique perspective as a health professional living with HIV, in addition to sharing facts and figures about the epidemic. He highlighted the risks of occupational exposure for healthcare practitioners and why it is underreported – everything from fear of a positive test result to risk management/legal issues and concerns about employment.
Early detection of HIV is important because it can help prevent a person from unknowingly spreading the virus and allows early medical intervention that may help prevent seroconversion.
“It’s so important to talk publicly about this virus and get tested to reduce the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS,” said Post, who participated in the Faces of HIV project, which examines the effects of stigmas, the personal relationships and care issues associated with being HIV-positive.
“Never in a million years did I think I’d be facing this… I was just doing my job,” Post says in the Faces of HIV video. “You learn about occupational exposure and go through the steps to avoid it, but you really don’t really hear much about it (happening).”
Post, 29, is pursuing a MPH degree in global communicable diseases from USF and works as a graduate assistant. For several years he worked as an EMT in Quincy, Tallahassee and Orlando, FL. A member of the State Emergency Response Team based in Tampa, he is an HIV/AIDS consultant for the Bristol-Myers Squibb Virology Department.
He said his experience with HIV has changed his career path from emergency medicine to infectious diseases and public health.
“I feel that going into infectious diseases will put me on the front lines, and I’ll be able to use this virus that has affected me to help even more people than I could imagine,” he said.
World AIDS Day is Saturday, Dec. 1. USF public health students are partnering with the USF Health Service Corps that day to educate members of the Santa Maria Mission in Tampa. The community fair includes interactive health stations and information booths on nutrition, Florida Kid Care, domestic violence, driving safety, AIDS/HIV/HPV awareness, and more.
Photo by Natalie Preston-Washington, USF College of Public Health Communications