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HopeHealth’s Role in Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS

Pamela Brantley, Community Manager

HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) and AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) have been affecting our world since 1981. HIV attacks immune cells, which increases the risk of infections and diseases in the body. If left untreated, HIV advances to AIDS when the immune system becomes badly damaged, making the body extremely susceptible to infections and diseases.

The virus is spread by sharing bodily fluids with a person with HIV through blood, seminal or vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, or breast milk.  Two of the major risk factors for transmitting HIV are having unprotected sex or sharing drug needles with someone who has HIV. The virus is NOT spread by toilet seats or by kissing, hugging, touching, or sharing food or drink with someone who has HIV.

Since the 1980s, significant improvements have been made in the treatment and prevention of HIV. Today, there are extremely effective and safe antiretroviral medications for prevention as well as treatment to make the virus undetectable and untransmittable.

Dr. Harmeet Gill, infectious diseases physician at HopeHealth, explains, “The sooner someone with HIV gets tested and diagnosed, the sooner treatment can be started resulting in less damage to the body. This will also help in preventing the spread of HIV to other people. With daily antiretroviral meds, the virus stops multiplying, and over time, the virus becomes undetectable and untransmittable. As long as patients take their medicine and regularly follow-up with their medical provider, they can lead normal, healthy lives and not worry about spreading the virus. Antiretroviral medications DO need to be taken consistently for life for the virus to remain undetectable.”

Eliminating stigma through awareness and education can help prevent the spread of HIV, promote testing, and help people with the virus live without fear of discrimination.

HopeHealth is a strong advocate for patients with HIV; it began in 1991 as a HIV/AIDS support group called Hope for the Pee Dee. The organization was born in the living room of a woman whose adult children had tested positive for HIV. What began as a support group for those affected by HIV in Florence quickly grew in response to community need. In 1994, Hope for the Pee Dee partnered with CareTeam from Myrtle Beach to staff a weekly clinic providing case management services for patients with HIV.

In 1996, Hope for the Pee Dee was awarded funding – Ryan White Part B and Housing Opportunities for Persons with AIDS (HOPWA) – to provide case management services in the wider Pee Dee (Florence, Darlington, Marion, Marlboro, Dillon, and Chesterfield counties). Five years later, Hope for the Pee Dee was recognized as one of only three agencies in South Carolina to be awarded Ryan White part C funding to provide primary care and early intervention services for people living with HIV/AIDS.

Now, as a Community Health Center, HopeHealth continues to provide comprehensive and quality medical care, treatment, prevention, and outreach services to all patients, including those impacted by and at-risk for HIV. HopeHealth’s medical staff, including providers, nurses, medical assistants, case managers, counselors, and other staff provide a team approach to give the best care to every patient. We strive to help patients overcome any barriers including worry or shame, homelessness, or financial hardship that might prevent them from getting tested and taking their HIV medications consistently.

On top of providing care to patients with HIV/AIDS, HopeHealth also continues to advocate for these patients while also providing community education and awareness. The organization does this in many ways, including with an annual AIDSWalk at the HopeHealth Medical Plaza (360 North Irby Street in Florence). The event, held in December in honor of World AIDS Day, includes a program and non-competitive awareness walk. AIDSWalk has been hosted by HopeHealth since 1993 and serves to educate the community on the importance of prevention, treatment, and breaking the stigma associated with HIV/AIDS. This year, there will be an additional AIDSWalk hosted at HopeHealth in Aiken (150 University Parkway).

If someone is diagnosed with HIV, they can still live a healthy life without fear of transmitting the virus. Education and awareness are vital steps to stop the stigma, shame, and fear of HIV by educating the public that HIV, like many other medical conditions, can be prevented and treated effectively. For more information about HopeHealth and its infectious diseases department, including HIV testing, education, and treatment, visit us online at hope-health.org or call (843) 667-9414.


HopeHealth

HopeHealth

HopeHealth educates its patients on the importance of having a health care home. As a primary care facility, HopeHealth’s medical team works to prevent and detect illness and the early onset of disease, provide routine physical examinations and promote overall healthy lifestyles.

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HopeHealth 360 North Irby St. Florence, SC 29501 (843) 667-9414
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