AAMU brings awareness to STDs, drug addiction

By: Deidra Brisco, WHNT

HUNTSVILLE, Ala. (WHNT) — Alabama A&M University (AAMU) is partnering with Thrive Alabama to offer resources to help people suffering from addiction — and their families — find information they need.

The School of Social Work is educating and training social work students to work with what they call “the undertreated” in Alabama. They focus on drug addiction and sexually transmitted diseases (STDs).

Educators with the program say training young adults to know what they are doing to their bodies is personal to them.

“I have members of my family that did not survive it, and I have members of my family that are currently abusing,” said Dora Cook, a program coordinator at AAMU. “I’m strongly passionate about not letting other children or other families suffer the loss and pain that I have suffered.”

According to university leaders, among the many consequences of opioid dependence is exposure to infectious diseases, including HIV, and one of the goals of this program is to educate on prevention.

“I think especially younger generation today [don’t] understand the risk [of HIV] and because they don’t necessarily understand those risks, they don’t know how to protect themselves,” said Erin Bortel, director of health education at Thrive Alabama.

Opioids are a class of drugs that includes heroin and prescription pain relievers like oxycodone, hydrocodone, morphine, and fentanyl.

The opioid receptors in the reward center of the brain bind the drug to diminish pain and create euphoria. Now, these students say their goal is to combat drug use with compassion.

“I actually have had a lot of family that have been left to the streets and have been disowned,” said Charles Allen, a junior and social work major. “We don’t even know where they’re at, and I just feel like it was a disservice to them because nobody actually came out and said ‘Let’s help them out.’”

“They gave them to the streets, and just said ‘Let them go’,” Allen continued.

On World AIDS Day on December 1 Thrive Alabama will host a pop-up gallery at Lowe Mill.