South Georgia Educates Community about HIV and AIDS
Harold Katner, M.D., F.A.C.P., F.I.D.S.A.
from Mercer University discusses the origin
of HIV and AIDS at Valdosta State University
on World AIDS Day, December 1.
While many people in South Georgia donít want to acknowledge the
numerous health problems we have, such as diabetes and
hypertension, educating the community about HIV/AIDS can prove
to be even more difficult.
With approximately 2,500 known cases of HIV/AIDS in South
Central Georgia, local public health officials consider it
necessary to better educate the community about prevention and
treatment of the disease. In order to do that, South Health
Districtís infectious disease office along with Valdosta State
Universityís health promotions and student health office hosted
a World AIDS Day Dine and Discover event at Valdosta State
University on December 1.
The featured speaker at the event was Harold Katner, M.D., Chief
of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Internal Medicine at
Mercer University School of Medicine. Dr. Katner spoke on the
theory of the non-African origin of HIV. This theory has existed
for over thirty years and many health experts believe that the
HIV virus existed long before the epidemic.
Infectious disease staff offered free HIV testing before and
after the event. Over 130 tests were performed that day with no
positive cases identified. Staff encouraged participants to wear
a red ribbon on World AIDS Day and throughout the year to
increase awareness of HIV/AIDS in South Georgia.
Valdosta Fire Chief J. D. Rice, on behalf of Mayor Sonny Vickers
of the City of Valdosta, declared December 1 as World AIDS Day
in Valdosta with a written proclamation. The proclamation
emphasized that the HIV/AIDS epidemic is a community-wide issue
and does not fall strictly in the hands of public health.
A South Georgia client gave his testimony about being HIV
positive, which helped to put a face to the disease. He conveyed
the obstacles of living with HIV, but also talked about his
positive experience working with the staff at the infectious
disease office in Valdosta, giving a salute to those in the
trenches each day.
While there is still a lot of work to be done surrounding
education of HIV/AIDS in South Georgia, this was one small step
forward in the right direction.
-Story by Courtney D. Sheeley, MPA, Risk Communicator/Public
Information Officer and William Grow, M.D., F.A.C.P, District
Health Director, District 8-1
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