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River Region Human Services, Inc. Awarded Grant for National Social Media Pilot Project

Jacksonville, FL, February, 2014 River Region Human Services has been awarded a federal grant for a pilot program that uses social media to reach targeted populations with messages designed to aid in the prevention of substance abuse and HIV infection.

New Media, New Messages (NM2) is a grant awarded to nine agencies in the U.S. by the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration (SAMHSA). The grant provides funding to conduct outreach to specific minority populations using social media platforms such as Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and others. The NM2 program 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.  

The grant, which launched October 1, 2013, targets those at highest risk for substance abuse and HIV infection, including African American heterosexuals over the age of 15, and African American men who have sex with men (MSM) over the age of 18. Both heterosexual and MSM populations within the African American community carry a significant burden of HIV/AIDS, as well as co-occurring risk factors that contribute to the disproportionate growth of substance abuse, mental health, and HIV/AIDS cases in Duval County.  

River Region has developed two social media sites for the identified populations: Wats Da T Jax to target African American men who have sex with men (MSM) over the age of 18, and Wats Da Play Jax to target African American heterosexuals over the age of 15. Each of the two populations are using Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, text messaging, email and other methods of outreach to share information regarding free testing, preventing STDs, and avoiding at-risk behaviors. The project team is working with Deppe Communications to develop and monitor the social media communications strategy.

Vince Evans, River Region’s Project Director for NM2, says the innovative pilot program has already reached thousands of people. “This is such an important message and social media is a critical way to reach the individuals identified by the program. The inherent anonymity of social media helps us reach populations that are either not consuming traditional media, or are reluctant to engage in activities where they would be identified. We have a team of social media specialists drawn from the target populations who are building a level of trust. Ultimately, our goal is to reduce the incidences of STD’s, substance abuse and HIV infections in our community.”

African Americans at Higher Risk for HIV in Duval County

African Americans represent 30.5% of the population in Duval County; nearly double that of the entire state of Florida (15%). Despite their minority status, African Americans account for 49% of total reported HIV cases; 40% of all adult male and 69% of all adult female cases.  Newly reported adult HIV infection case rates are five times higher among African American men than white men and 15 times higher among African American women than white women.  For 22 consecutive years (1988-2010), HIV/AIDS had been the leading cause of death for African Americans ages 25-44 in Florida.  While HIV/AIDS dropped to the 4th leading cause of death for African American men and 2nd leading cause of death for African American women in Florida in 2011, African Americans still represented 60% of AIDS deaths for that year (FDOH, 2012, Black Fact Sheet).

MSM is the largest population group unaware that they are infected with HIV, with 54% being uninformed of their HIV status (Florida Department of Health [FDOH], 2012, MSM Fact Sheet). An estimated 7.5% of Florida adults are MSM, accounting for a population of approximately 32,000 in Duval County. While HIV prevalence is disproportionately high for African Americans in the United States, it is even more disproportionate for MSM. MSM represent approximately 2% of the United States population, but accounted for more than half of new HIV infections between 2008 and 2010 (CDC, 2013). Young, African American MSM, ages 13-34, are especially affected by HIV. 

Internet Use is High

Studies reveal that younger adults and minorities are the most frequent users of internet access via smartphones. Fifty one percent of African Americans use their smartphones for internet access, compared to 24% of whites. A 2012 survey of HIV-infected individuals indicated that 81% text extensively and more than 50% access the internet through smartphones or tablets. The NM2 project team uses these communication tools to reach the targeted populations to share information and engage in conversation. The team is partnering with similar agencies and organizations to reach as many individuals as possible in the region.

For more information or to follow the NM2 social media sites, visit:

WatsDaTJax on Facebook www.facebook.com/WatsDaTJax

WatsDaTJax on Twitter www.twitter.com/Wats_Da_T_Jax

WatsDaTJax on Instagram www.instagram.com/wats_da_t_jax

Wats Da T Jax targets African American MSM age 18 and older.


WatsDaPlayJax on Facebook www.facebook.com/WatsDaPlayJax

WatsDaPlayJax on Twitter www.twitter.com/watsdaplayjax

WatsDaPlayJax on Instagram www.instagram.com/watsdaplayjax

Wats Da Play Jax targets African American heterosexuals age 15 and older.


CONTACT: Vince Evans, NM2 Project Director

904.899.6300, ext. 4120

Kim Deppe, Deppe Communications


River Region Marks National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day with Free Rapid HIV Testing

To mark National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NBHAAD), River Region Human Services has scheduled three free HIV testing events in Jacksonville on Feb. 7. Celebrated nationally, the initiative is designed to encourage blacks across the United States and Territorial Areas to get educated, get tested, get involved, and get treated around HIV/AIDS.

River Region will offer Rapid HIV Tests from 3 p.m. until 6 p.m. at the Walgreens locations at 3604 Blanding Boulevard (corner of Wilson and Blanding) and 5108 Norwood Avenue.  Rapid HIV Tests provide results within 15 minutes.

HIV/AIDS is especially devastating for the black community, which experiences much higher infection rates than other U.S. populations. While blacks represent approximately 14% of the U.S. population, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that the group accounts for 44% of the nation’s new HIV infections. In Duval County, nearly 7,000 individuals have been diagnosed with AIDS and 64% of those diagnosed are black, compared to 49% statewide. In St. Johns County, 44% of those diagnosed with AIDS are black, followed by 29% in Clay County, 43% in Nassau County and 51% in Baker County. (Source: Florida Health AIDS Surveillance Report, Area 4, December 2013.)

Unfortunately, many of those who are infected with HIV are unaware of their status and may unknowingly transmit the virus to others.  Infection rates are higher in urban centers compared with rural areas, and River Region has a program focused on testing and educating minority populations about HIV/AIDS prevention. Testing and education are critical components of the River Region program.

Several black celebrities and community leaders have served as the face and voice of this national effort while encouraging thousands of Black communities to mobilize and do something that will be long-lasting in the fight against HIV/AIDS. Past spokespersons include: President Barack H. Obama (during his time as Illinois Senator), Congressman Elijah E. Cummings; Tony Dungy; Idris Elba; Kimberly Elise; Lance Gross; Hill Harper; Taraji P. Henson; Tom Joyner; Congresswoman Barbara Lee; Chris Bridges (aka Ludacris); Percy Miller (aka Master P); Tangi Miller; Patrik-Ian Polk; General Colin Powell; Sheryl Lee Ralph; Gloria Reuben; Romeo; Rev. Edwin Sanders; Tavis Smiley; and Congresswoman Maxine Waters.

Currently, NBHAAD is directed, planned and organized by a group known as the Strategic Leadership Committee who partners with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration to mobilize communities and address specific issues in regards to local epidemics.  For more information on National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, visit: www.NationalBlackAIDSDay.org.

Welcome to our new website!

We are very happy to be launching a new version of the River Region Human Services website. We have designed this website to make it easier for you to find the information you are looking for, as well as to provide you with news about health screenings and testing, community events and other activities. We invite your comments here, and hope you will let us know if there is any other information you would like us to add to the website. We hope that you will take time to follow us on Twitter (@RiverRegion) and Facebook (www.facebook.com/RiverRegion), sign up for our E-mail list, and sign up for text messages. Forms to sign up for all of that are located here on the website.

If you don’t know much about River Region, visit the “about us” page and browse through the menu items. You will notice that we offer many services and programs in the Jacksonville, FL region for Mental Health, Drug & Alcohol Abuse, Outreach & Community Services, Youth & Family Services and Housing. Our team of professionals works every day to rebuild families and restore communities. It is important to us to reach out to our community and deliver not only health services and prevention, but support for individuals and families in many other ways, as well. From transitional housing to ongoing support groups, parenting classes or drop-in centers, River Region is restoring our community one family at a time.

If you would like more information or are seeking help, please call us at (904) 899-6300.

© 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.