[This letter to the editor is from Foster Norman, CEO of Cobb County Community Services Board]
To the editor:
As we recognize National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10, the United States Department of Health and Human Services recently announced a national strategy to eliminate new HIV infections that is intended to provide resources right here in Cobb County.
During the State of the Union address, President Trump shared this strategy, called “Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America.” The initiative works by directing new funds to targeted communities affected by HIV in a phased approach. Those of us in the field nation-wide are waiting to hear how this will impact the identified areas, but we know that Cobb County is included on the list. In fact, metro Atlanta has among the highest rates of new infections in the nation; according to the Georgia Department of Public Health, in 2016 Cobb County had 168 known cases of HIV infection.
This is important to our community because the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is contagious and can lead to acquired Immunodeficiency (AIDS) if left untreated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body cannot get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. Once a person has HIV, he or she has it for life.
Education, awareness and treatment are essential to eradicating this disease. Cobb County Community Services Board is part of this effort through its free HIV/Hepatitis C (Hep C) education and prevention, testing, and substance use services. This includes rapid testing (results in sixty seconds for HIV, and 20 minutes for Hep C) and links to care for those who test positive.
Our agency will continue to provide needed services while collaborating with other agencies in the community to educate and bring testing to areas that request it including community centers, universities, churches and health fairs. Those we serve at our substance use treatment centers prove to be some of the most vulnerable populations and are considered high risk. It is important that Cobb County residents are aware of our efforts in the fight against HIV/AIDS education and how the community assists in providing free access to testing and links to treatment.