Columbus organizations work to prevent the rise of HIV

Columbus organizations work to prevent the rise of HIV

COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) - According to the CDC, Georgia ranks fifth in the number of HIV diagnoses reported in 2013.

In recognition of National HIV Testing Day on Saturday June 27, several organizations are taking steps to help anyone know their status.

An estimated 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and that number grows by almost 50,000 every year.

However, three organizations in Columbus say having just one person infected by HIV is one too many.

The Better Way Foundation, the M-Power Project and New Horizons wants you to know your HIV status before it's too late.

"Twenty percent of people living with HIV don't even know it their status. That 20 percent is responsible for 70 percent of all new infections," said Jeremy Hobbs, president of Better Way Foundation.

Hobbs say those numbers are decreasing.

"Because of these testing events we have helped to lower stage three AIDS diagnoses," said Hobbs.

Those such as Koriaie Davis, today was his first time getting tested.

"I care about myself and my health and its always important to get your checked. As a African American male of 25 it's always important to get yourself straight," said Koriaie Davis.

HIV can be contracted many ways, such as unprotected sex, multiple partners and drug use. It takes one test to know your status.

"If you have any doubt in your mind, had unprotected sex or used any type of drug come out here and get checked because you never know," said Davis.

"I did that when I was in my twenties. There's no telling how long I had AIDS before I actually found out I had AIDS," said Hobbs.

The M-Power Project in Columbus works to reduce the stigma of HIV and provides education and prevention.

"You can't treat someone less than human because they were diagnosed with something and you don't know how their story," said Matthew Harper, of M-Power Project.

His organization is one of the first to help regardless of your results.

"We linked them to care, make sure they get the services they need and for the ones who are negative, we do risk assessment," said Harper.

The CDC recommends every person regardless of race or age get tested for HIV routinely throughout their lifetime.

Renee Watkins came to support her friend as she waited for her results.

Watkins says she was diagnosed with HIV in 2002 after her doctor performed a mandatory HIV test because she was pregnant.

"I was of course devastated that I had it and my world at the time I thought like everybody else 'I'm going to die, this is it for me. I was going to nursing school. One test and one time without a condom, I slipped up," said Watkins.

New Horizons who were providing the HIV test for free say you can still contact them anytime to find out how you can be tested for HIV.

The Columbus Health Department also offered free HIV testing at their location on Comer Avenue.

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