2013-07-10 / Front Page

Do you really know?

Program addresses high HIV rate in Burke
By Anne Marie Kyzer

At last count, Burke County had one of the highest HIV rates in the CSRA.

Among Georgia counties in the area, it lagged only behind Richmond in the number of cases per capita, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

What worries David Thompson, of Georgia Regents University, are the many more people who may have it and just don’t know. He hopes to help remedy that with his efforts as part of a special outreach team from GRU that will offer free testing in Waynesboro this Friday.

“The CSRA, in general, usually has the highest rate in the state outside of Atlanta, and Georgia usually runs about sixth in the country,” he explained, noting the concentration of cases here. “And our data shows that people from outlying areas, in rural areas, tend to find out later. We want to try to get them into care earlier.”

In 2010, Burke County had about 126 documented HIV cases, but many more affected may simply not know yet.

Through GRU’s outreach program, Thompson will bring a mobile lab to Burke County, offer free tests and help people get the care they need should they test positive.

“The test is completely confidential. It’s very easy and done with a mouth swab,” Thompson said, noting results are ready in about 20 minutes. “If someone should come back positive, I can help them access care and get the services they need to stay well.”

With help from federal grant funding, GRU can provide care for people’s HIV regardless of whether or not they have insurance. The cost is based on their income.

“It used to be believed that if you got HIV you were eventually going to get AIDS and eventually get sick and die,” Thompson said. “But now, even though we can’t cure it, if you get HIV while you’re well, we can keep you well.”

The big misconception

“A lot of people still have the misconception that it’s a disease that only affects the promiscuous,” GRU’s David Thompson says. “That’s not the case. It’s not the activities; it’s the fluids we expose ourselves to.” The CDC now recommends that everyone ages 16-65 get tested every year.

Find Out

Find out more about the program or if you’re affected.
WHEN: Friday, July 12
TIME: 3-6 p.m.
WHERE: Look for the mobile lab’s van parked outside
Walgreens on Liberty Street in Waynesboro

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