Global problem, local help available

Published 12:00 am Friday, December 3, 2004

Wednesday marked the return of World AIDS Day, which is used to focus attention on the disease that has claimed more than 20 million America lives since the early 1980s.

According to James Waid, the executive director of Montgomery AIDS Outreach (MAO), the refocusing of attention is vital.

&uot;World AIDS Day brings everyone back to one point or idea to show what effect the disease has had on the world,&uot; he said via telephone Friday.

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&uot;We use the day to remember the ones who lost their lives to show our support for those living with HIV and AIDS.&uot;

MAO’s work is not confined to the Montgomery area.

Through funding from the Ryan White Care Act, MAO operates a monthly clinic in Georgiana.

Waid said there are currently 14 people who receive services at the Georgiana clinic.

According to the Department of Public Health, there are currently 23 confirmed AIDS cases in Butler County.

There are 20 confirmed AIDS cases in Crenshaw County and 28 confirmed cases in Lowndes County.

There are 25 confirmed HIV cases in Lowndes County, while Crenshaw County has nine confirmed HIV cases. In Butler County, there are 21 confirmed HIV cases.

&uot;We send a doctor, receptionist, social worker and a phlebotomist,&uot; he said.

&uot;Once a month, those who are registered with us have access to an array of services.&uot;

Those services include HIV primary care, medical support, case management, helping acquiring medications, housing assistance and much more.

As noted the funding comes from the Ryan White Care Act.

The law was named for the young man who contracted hemophilia and died in 1990 after the landmark suit that allowed him to attend school as a normal teenager.

Waid said the RWCA is divided into four types or titles.

&uot;Title One funds are for the cities that were hit hardest and first such as New York, Los Angeles, San Francisco and Washington, D.C.,&uot; he said.

&uot;Title Two funds are funneled to agencies like MAO through each state’s health department. It provides support services for case management like food banks and medical assistance.&uot;

He said the Title Three funds are primarily for medical care for the permanent MAO sites in Montgomery and Dothan and seven rural sites.

&uot;Title Three is what funds our clinic in Georgiana,&uot; he said.

&uot;It is really hard to separate Title Two and Title Three because they interface so much.&uot;

The final type is Title Four and those funds are earmarked for women and children, including the funding of the HIV/AIDS unit at Children’s Hospital in Birmingham, where they have a full time clinic.

The clinic has a branch office in Montgomery.

Waid said the recent World AIDS Day observance also gave an opportunity for focus on the fact that the epidemic is moving more into the Far East.

He said another reason it seems to be spreading is that more people are being tested than ever before.

&uot;You can be HIV positive for 10 years before you know it,&uot; he said.

&uot;The Center for Disease Control believes that 9 out of 10 people who are positive do not know their status.

Testing is vital.&uot;

Waid said the office at MAO performs several thousand tests a year.

He said people who wish to be tested can do so at the Butler County Health Department, but they can also go to the MAO offices on the Southern Boulevard.

Also, they can visit their private physicians, but if you wish to be tested for HIV, you must request it.

&uot;They cannot test you for HIV without your permission or your knowledge,&uot; he said.

The health department and MAO does not charge for the service.

Once a person is tested, it takes about a week to get the results.

There are two test methods now in use, one where blood is drawn and the other is called Ora Sure.

The second test uses mucosal cells in the mouth to determine HIV status.

&uot;If the first test is positive, we do a second test called a western blot to confirm that the test is positive,&uot; he said.

&uot;We cannot even begin serving someone unless they provide us with a western blot.&uot;

An HIV test checks to see if a person’s body is making antibodies to fight HIV. If it is, then that person has been infected with HIV. The test does not tell if a person has AIDS.

A sample of either blood or mucosal cells is taken. The sample is tested for HIV antibodies. It usually takes the body about six months to make enough HIV antibodies for the test to detect. If HIV antibodies are found, it means the test is positive. HIV tests are reliable. The chances for inaccurate results are extremely small, especially when testing is done more than six months after infection.

For more information on the services of the MAO or on HIV testing or setting up a presentation on HIV, call 1-800-510-4704 or visit them on the web at