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Self-Care is Local Woman’s Key to Living with Hepatitis

July 28 is World Hepatitis Day

After years of living a risky and addicted lifestyle, Ronda was somewhat surprised to be diagnosed with a lifelong chronic illness at age 35. While she was well into recovery from her addiction, the diagnosis of hepatitis came with a thought. “I felt like God was telling me I couldn’t have come out of this unscathed,” she said. “It was a moment of clarity, that these are the consequences of the choices I had made.”

Ronda will never know how she contracted hepatitis. In fact, it could have nothing at all to do with her previous lifestyle. However, the behaviors and her addiction increased her risk of infection.

Monday, July 28, 2014 is World Hepatitis Day and River Region Human Services is planning free testing and education to raise awareness in the Jacksonville community. Ronda recently shared her story to underscore the importance of knowing the risks of this serious disease.

Hepatitis is a virus that can go undetected for many years because it typically has few, or no, symptoms. Nearly 72,000 Americans become infected every year, usually by contact with blood or through sexual contact. Hepatitis B and C can become a lifelong, chronic condition that causes serious liver damage, cirrhosis, liver cancer and even death; however, most people with chronic hepatitis can live for many years without serious symptoms. There are multiple types of Hepatitis such as A, B and C which are contracted in different ways but all can result in permanent liver damage. Vaccines for A and B are available and have resulted in dramatic decreases in Hepatitis A over the last 20 years.

For Ronda, living with Hepatitis has helped her realize how important it is to take care of her health. Ironically, Ronda spent time as a health educator helping others to control their risks, while coping with her own diagnosis. Modeling healthy living, she sees her doctor regularly and gets checked annually to monitor the hepatitis. For a while, she participated in a clinical trial to test the effectiveness of various medications, but found the side effects to be too much to handle, causing her to withdraw from the trial.

Her diagnosis has not held her back. Ronda completed her Master’s degree and now spends time advocating the benefits of being tested for all sexually transmitted diseases. “I believe that once you have the information, you are responsible for that information. It becomes a conscious choice to either take care of yourself, or not,” Ronda says. She emphasizes that the risk of contracting any type of hepatitis goes beyond risky behaviors, and includes everyday things like surgery or dental work – even eating foods that has been contaminated with the virus. As many as 75% of those infected do not know they have hepatitis; regular medical care and testing is critical.

“I encourage people to see a doctor if they have health concerns, or have a Hepatitis diagnosis. I guide them to their healthcare provider. I also encourage them to use Google, WebMD, or other resources to gain insight about hepatitis,” Ronda says.

“Be good to yourself,” Ronda advises, “and establish a solid, open relationship with your healthcare provider. Be informed about all of your options.”

Today, Ronda’s level of infection remains the same as it was when she was first diagnosed in the late 1990s. By taking an active role in her healthcare, she has managed the disease and continuously monitors it. But she says the early days were difficult. “At first, I was mad. I felt like damaged goods,” she says. “I felt like no one would want me. I was wrong, actually. Because I was in recovery when I was diagnosed, I opted to take care of myself. I knew if I stayed clean, I would have more options open to me. It’s like high blood pressure or diabetes. You live with it.”

Free Hepatitis testing is available Monday through Friday, by appointment, at the Duval County Health Department, 515 West 6th Street. To schedule, call 904-253-1861. Free tests also are available at the Immunization Center, 5220 N. Pearl St., on the first and third Mondays of the month from 9 a.m. until Noon. No appointment is necessary.

For more information about Hepatitis, visit www.rrhs.org/hepatitis.


Dance-a-thon to Raise Money for River Region Human Services Back-to-School Program

ACTS is partnering with River Region Human Services for a dance-a-thon fundraiser on July 26, 2014 from 8:00am – 4:00pm at the Comedy Club, located at 11000 Beach Boulevard, Suite 8. The purpose of the dance-a-thon is to support the back-to-school needs for many low income, at-risk children in Jacksonville. Funds raised will purchase school supplies and materials to prepare these children for a successful 2014-15 school year.

In addition, there will be many food vendors available who are providing samples of their delectable menu items. For a nominal cost of $15 in advance or $20 the day of the event, you may enjoy unlimited samples of their delicious foods and beverages.

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River Region Commemorates National HIV Testing Day

River Region Human Services Marks National HIV Testing Day With Health Fair and Free Testing to Be Offered at Local Walgreens Stores

Duval County, FL has one of the highest incidence rates of HIV infection in the state, according to a recent CDC report, and a 2011 CNN report cited CDC statistics showing Jacksonville with the fifth-highest number of AIDS diagnoses among all cities in the country. Duval is one of eight counties in the state with between 0.19 and 0.38 percent of its population infected with HIV. An estimated 2,360 people in Duval County are living with HIV and another 6,240 are living with AIDS. Of those, 30% are women, 64% are Black and 37% are between the ages of 30 and 39.

Free HIV Testing will be offered from 3 p.m. to 7 p.m. on Thursday, June 26 and Friday, June 27, as well as Saturday, June 28 from 10.m. until 2 p.m. at the following locations:


5340 Soutel Drive

Jacksonville, FL 32219



5108 Norwood Avenue

Jacksonville, FL 32208



3604 Blanding Blvd. at Wilson

Jacksonville, FL 32210



6006 Beach Blvd.

Jacksonville, FL 32216


No appointment is required for the testing.

A free Community Health Fair will be held on Saturday, June 28, at 3101-3 Justina Road, Jacksonville. In addition to food and music, free HIV testing and health information will be available. Sponsored by River Region, a number of community partners also will be participating in the event. The event is part of River Region’s New Media, New Messages (NM2) program that uses social media and community partnerships to reach young African Americans in Jacksonville with substance abuse and HIV prevention messaging. Part of a national Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration grant, the NM2 project aims to decrease prejudice and discrimination by giving those at risk of contracting HIV the opportunity to share their stories online, allowing positive interaction with others in their community and encouraging healthy behaviors.

In addition, free HIV testing will be offered at the Get Inspired 5K Run on Saturday, June 28, from 7 a.m. until Noon in Hemming Plaza in downtown Jacksonville.

For more information, give us a call at 904-899-6300 ext. 4112.

Free Community Health Fair on June 28

Free health screenings and information will be available at a day-long Community Health Fair in the Justina area on June 28. Sponsored by River Region Human Services, the “Take the Test. Take Control” event will include  free testing for STDs (sexually-transmitted diseases) and HIV/AIDS and information about making smart choices for a healthy lifestyle.

The event will be held from 3 p.m. until 7 p.m. at 3103-3 Justina Road in Jacksonville. The health fair is free and open to the public.

In addition to testing, River Region and its community partners will be providing information about preventing and treating substance abuse and mental illness. There also will be information about transitional and permanent housing for homeless individuals who are coping with any of these health problems.

Take the Pledge to Party Sober!

Graduation time, summer time, vacation time – definitely a time to party. But River Region Human Services is encouraging you to Party Sober by avoiding drugs and alcohol. What are the facts? Here are some sobering statistics from SAMSHA:

  • Every year, underage drinking causes more than 4,700 deaths in the U.S. This includes deaths from alcohol-related homicides, suicides, car crashes, falls, burns, and drowning.
  • Prescription drug abuse and marijuana use among teens has increased dramatically in recent years, putting young people at risk of long-term physical and mental illnesses.
  • Alcohol abuse leads to diabetes, liver disease and other serious illnesses.
  • 24 percent of drivers aged 15 to 20 who are involved in fatal motor vehicle crashes were drinking
  • The majority of underage drinkers report that their last use of alcohol in the past month occurred either in someone else’s home or their own home.
  • Alcohol can cause hangovers, vomiting, loss of consciousness, and death resulting from alcohol poisoning or asphyxiation.
  • Marijuana impairs judgment and motor coordination, which increases the risk of motor vehicle accidents.
  • Combining prescription drugs with alcohol or other drugs can lead to heart failure, seizures, and death.
  • High doses and/or repeated use of stimulants (e.g., medications used to treat asthma, attention deficit hyperactivity disorder) can produce feelings of hostility and paranoia. In serious cases, taking large amounts of stimulants can cause heart failure or seizures

Start your summer off right and take the pledge to Party Sober!

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© 2014 River Region Human Services | Employee Webmail | Careers
Some programs are funded in part by federal, state, and local government agencies, including the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development, the Center for Disease Control, the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Administration (SAMHSA), an agency of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, the Florida Department of Health, and the City of Jacksonville. In additional, many of our services are sponsored in part by the State of Florida Department of Children and Families Services.