By: Sharah Denton
On December 1st South Health District, the Valdosta Alumnae Chapter of Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc. and Valdosta State University Student Health Center is hosting a World Aids Day Community Forum and Free Luncheon. The luncheon will be held at the Patterson located at 101 N. Patterson Street from 11:30 am to 1 pm. The keynote speaker for the luncheon is Kim Moon. Kim is an HIV Activist / Advocate and Motivational Speaker whose main focus are women and young adults. Her goal is to not only equip and empower others but to advocate and serve as an activist who has traveled the world sharing her story and speaking about HIV and other STI’s (sexually transmitted infections). She is the founder of, Positively Beautiful and her passion is teaching women to love themselves, make wise decisions and stop the spread of HIV.
Dr. Lakesha Williams, DNP, NP-C, ANP-BC who Co-chaired the "Know Your Status" initiative along with South Health District and VSU’s Student Health Center says, “According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), “1.1 million people in the US are living with HIV, and 1 in 7 of them don’t know it.” This event is to promote the importance of “knowing your status” and to demolish the stigma and myths related to HIV. Given the increasing statistics related to this disease, it is no longer just a recommendation, but it is imperative that change is made to stop this epidemic. Delta Sigma Theta Sorority, Inc Valdosta Alumnae Chapter is proud to be a supporting vehicle to make this happen.
According to HIV Coordinator of Infectious Disease from the Georgia Department of Public Health, John Rogers, there are many misconceptions about HIV/AIDS with the main one being the denial many individuals have in believing they are not at risk. “People in the south think that HIV is a disease that happens in other areas (West Coast, Northeast, large urban areas, etc.) or that living in rural areas puts all of us at low or no risk which is not true, says John.
In fact, 50% or more of all HIV infections (new and living with HIV) happen in the South and not just in urban areas. Other misconceptions according to John are that only IV drug users, young people, gay people, etc. are at risk and that as long as they are “careful” who they are with then they have no risk. This is all not true.
What has become more alarming according to John is that the increasing number of 13-24 year olds being newly infected with HIV. John says that the luncheon is important for the community to attend and that Kim Moon who is HIV Positive will address the misconceptions about HIV from the perspective of an African American woman who has lived with HIV in Georgia. The title of her talk is Bruised but not broken; How to live a Positive life and feel like it will give those living with HIV, those with an HIV positive family/friend and those working with HIV positive people gain a positive outlook on the disease.
The CDC recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of routine health care. For those with specific risk factors, CDC recommends getting tested once a year (those with new sexual partners, IV drug users, etc.). Globally 36.7 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS at the end of 2016. Of these, 2.1 million were children. 1.8 million Individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2016 – about 5,000 new infections per day.
In the US there are 1.1 million people living with HIV as of 2015 and about 38,000 people are newly infected every year. As of 2015- 54,754 people were living with HIV in GA making Georgia the 5th highest in the nation for those living with HIV. There were 2,741 new HIV diagnoses during 2015 in Georgia making the state the 5th highest for new infections in the US.
In the United States, HIV diagnoses are not evenly distributed across states and regions. Southern states accounted for half (50%) of new HIV diagnoses in 2015, while making up 38% of the national population. In all regions of the United States, the majority of people who receive an HIV diagnosis live in urban areas. But in the South, 23% of new HIV diagnoses are in suburban and rural areas. The South’s larger and more geographically dispersed persons living with HIV creates unique challenges for prevention, treatment, and care.
In the South Health 8-1 District as of 2014 there are 1070 people living with HIV with about 50-60 new HIV infections a year.