She’s the Face of HIV/AIDS Prevention
Bertha Joyner: Distributing vital information about HIV/AIDS to the masses.
On her way out of the Department of Health and Mental Hygiene’s Long Island City office Feb. 7, Community Coordinator Bertha Joyner was on her way to the Bronx for Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. The next day she would be tabling in Queens at a Chinese New Year Event. Earlier in the week she had been at a diagnostics center in Brooklyn. Like Travis Bickle in Taxi Driver, she goes all over.
Joyner, who came to the agency in 1985, is the public face of the City’s effort to spread awareness and educational materials about HIV/AIDS prevention. In her role in the Condoms and Material Unit, she goes to community events at colleges, schools, places of worship and other venues to set up tables with information for the public.
“I love helping people and then getting their feedback,” she said. “I work with the seniors, with the youth. I take pleasure inthe fact that I’m offering a valuable service to the community.”
Joyner believes that work like this has paid off since the 1980s when the AIDS epidemic began.
“There’s progress,” she said. “I think I’ve helped some people. As for more people learning, there’s a lot of materials out there. More people are using condoms.”
A Long Career
Joyner’s career with the agency began in the Borough Commissioner’s Office, where she received and tracked environmental complaints from the Community Boards. But this is also where she got her early HIV/AIDS education training, as she helped organize conferences on the subject.
By 1994 she was promoted to the HIV Prevention and Control unit, where she monitored and oversaw agency-funded programs.
Joyner is also an active member of SSEU Local 371, serving as both a delegate and on the Executive Committee. She recalled that in 2007, a co-worker encouraged her to get more involved in the Union. The way Joyner saw it, the Union does for its members what civil servants like her do for the public.
“The Union helps members, whatever problems they’re having, the Union listens” she said. “The Union helps them with their rights.”