On Saturday, October 21, 2017, students from the Department of Public Health in the College of Health and Human Services volunteered with the Barren River District Health Department and the BRIGHT Coalition to provide public health services and education at the inaugural Bowling Green LGBTQ Pride presented by Bowling Green Fairness. One team provided STI education and free, anonymous, on-site, HIV testing; the other team provided nutrition education and samples of fresh produce from the Community Farmers Market.
Working towards healthy equity is a key element of public health practice. Chip Kraus, STD investigator from the Barren River District Health Department, explained the health department’s presence at the event, stating, “in Public Health, it is important to meet people where they are. BG Pride allowed us to provide HIV testing services and sexual health information to many people who might not have taken the time to visit a traditional clinic. Many people in the LGBTQ community feel marginalized, and I think we helped bring down some barriers for accessing health care.”
Master of Public Health student Victoria Peters worked with the HIV testing team. She describes the goal of the booth as raising awareness and providing resources for the LGBTQ community to protect themselves and their loved ones. She states “the main thing that we accomplished was starting a discussion about HIV and STIs. Hopefully, this discussion can reduce some of the negative stigma that circulates around these topics as well as empower those who came to the table to take action against these issues.”
At the other booth, Master of Public Health student Apeksha Joshi served fresh vegetables to Pride visitors. She states “as a graduate student in public health, my goals are focused on the services to the community... I participated in the BG Pride to spread awareness about the importance of eating fresh and healthy vegetables. We got many good responses. There were many people who had not tried the vegetables before, and when they tried them, they enjoyed the taste.”
Dr. Patricia Minter, Professor of History and founding member of Bowling Green Fairness, felt the health department’s presence at the inaugural Bowling Green Pride was very important. She states, “LGBTQ health issues are complex, and many local providers are not trained or sensitive to the needs of this diverse community. Providing this crucial information in safe and welcoming space at BG Pride is important, and we loved working with the Barren River Health Department and members of the WKU Public Health Department.”