Time to act is now
By KIM BUNCH HOGGARD
AHOSKIE – On December 1, personnel with the Hertford County Public Health Authority hosted an observation of World AIDS Day at the Gallery Theatre in Ahoskie for the first time. About 75 people were on hand for the event, including local artists who displayed their work.
Julia Vann, a personal health services director at HCPHA, explained the need for the event, saying, “Not much is said about HIV/AIDS publically anymore and people assume the disease is no longer a problem.”
With that in mind, Cherri Brunson, Human Services Programs Specialist, came up with the idea of having a local event to acknowledge World AIDS Day in Ahoskie this year and every year from now on.
World AIDS Day was established by the United Nations as the first global health day and held on December 1, 1988 for the first time. Their goal has been to remind the public and government that HIV has not gone away and there’s a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education about the disease.
Vann furthered explained that the HCPHA is very active in the fight against HIV/AIDS in northeastern North Carolina. The HCPHA has a mobile unit staffed with a medical doctor, two registered nurses, and case management workers who visit 11 counties in this region. The team provides testing, lab work and initial treatment for the disease. They also inform people that “the time to act is now” if they have a positive diagnosis by providing them counsel and literature to make vital decisions concerning their future.
Brunson opened the event on the Gallery Theatre stage by thanking those who came and the presenters who would follow. She especially thanked the Added Touch Florist who donated a beautiful flower display that would be donated to ViiV Healthcare after the event in honor of “Giving Tuesday” which is observed globally to celebrate giving back. It follows Cyber Monday and Black Friday.
Brunson explained that the presenters on hand were there to showcase the need for HIV/AIDS awareness.
“HIV/AIDS does not discriminate, it affects all races, genders and social-economic classes alike; it’s more than hospitals and more than pills, and it doesn’t have to be a death sentence,” Brunson explained.
The first presentation was a series of short films made by CJ Jones, a Chowan College student who founded of NOTW/Network and CJ Jones Visions. Jones has fulfilled his vision creating a vignette of short films entitled “Behind Closed Doors.” These films showcase situations that could occur to people after they have been diagnosed with AIDS.
After the films were shown, Jones spoke and stated that one in four people with the disease are between the ages of 13 and 24. Therefore, his goal in making the films is to convey to his college aged peers the importance of getting tested for HIV/AIDS and telling all possible recipients if you are infected to combat the spread of the disease.
Dr. Cathy Shubert, a doctor of Pharmacology from Atlanta, Georgia, presented a slide show providing HIV education. Shubert explained that the HIV/AIDS virus enters the body and attacks T-cells.
“T-cells are white blood cells that are of key importance to the immune system in the body in combating illnesses and infections,” she said.
She added, “The AIDS virus attacks these T-cells and destroys them leaving the body unable to fight off these illnesses and infections.
“The medication now available for AIDS treatment harnesses the virus so it cannot attack the T-cells, and the patient can stay healthy; therefore, it’s imperative for those infected to begin treatment,” Shubert concluded.
Local filmmaker Tommy Hurdle showed his film, “The Transfer.” The subject of the film is a young man who has contracted the AIDS virus. The subject matter of the film is very personal to Hurdle because it’s based on a true story that happened to someone very close to him.
The film was shot locally with a local cast. The actors in the film tell the story of a young man who contracts AIDS and does not seek treatment. He, subsequently, passes away because he did not take available medications that would have saved his life.
Hurdle is a huge advocate for HIV awareness and has shown his film in film festivals around the country to showcase the importance of getting treatment for the disease.
In closing remarks, Brunson stated, “It’s important that people know that AIDS continues to be a huge problem in the US, but it’s a disease that can be lived with if treatment is sought.”