About 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and nearly one in eight of those are not aware they have the virus. To make matters worse, Georgia ranks first in the nation for its rate of new HIV cases, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
In an effort to combat these staggering statistics, Augusta University’s Ryan White Program continues to host community events to not only educate the public about HIV and AIDS, but also to reduce disparities and ensure those living with the virus have access to health care.
“The number of new HIV cases in Georgia and, more specifically, in Augusta is rising at alarming rates, hence our increased efforts for testing in our community,” said Karen Denny, manager of the university’s Ryan White Program. “We make it our business to be in the community to share information about the virus and make sure that all people living with HIV/AIDS receive the care they need.”
World AIDS Day is Dec. 1 and people worldwide use this as an opportunity to unite in the fight against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV and to commemorate those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.
Augusta University is also using this time to shed light on the health care crisis all month long. To kick things off, the Ryan White Program will offer free, rapid HIV testing from 11 a.m.-2 p.m. today, Dec. 2, in the program’s Mobile HIV Testing Van on the Health Sciences Campus and in the Jaguar Student Activities Center Ballroom on the Summerville Campus.
The program has also partnered with the local nonprofit Positively Augusta to host the annual U<Walk at 11 a.m. Saturday, Dec. 14, at 1339 Laney-Walker Blvd. This event helps raise funds for scholarships and provide the community with educational materials on HIV-related illnesses. View registration details.
To better serve patients living with HIV or AIDS, the program is expanding and preparing to open in its new location in Augusta University Health’s Moore Avenue Clinic behind the Georgia War Veterans Nursing Home. The building will house the program and specialists who treat infectious diseases in a 17,570-square-foot facility, which is expected to be completed in January 2020.
Denny said the larger space will not only allow her team to expand outreach and testing efforts, but also provide more thorough clinical care, education and resources to patients.
“Our patients are our No. 1 priority and giving them the opportunity to receive interdisciplinary care under one roof is a great way to streamline the health care being provided to them,” said Denny.
Show your support for World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness.