February 6, 2012
The nonprofit Rowan County AIDS Task Force recently changed its name to the Rowan Care Alliance (RCA), though it still provides HIV/AIDS services, including testing and prevention education. The group decided to remove "AIDS" from its name because stigma continues to affect people with HIV/AIDS.
"HIV stigma is a huge deterrent to testing, education, prevention, and outreach," said Stacey Cuevas, an RCA board member and a supervisor at HIV Case Management (HCM) at Rowan Regional Medical Center. "Many people, including medical professionals, believe that all people with HIV or AIDS are drug users or lead a risky lifestyle."
Of the 230 people diagnosed with HIV/AIDS in Rowan County, 96 are HCM clients who are actively seeking help with doctors' appointments, transportation, and treatment options, Cuevas said. The majority of HCM clients, 61 percent, contracted the virus heterosexually; 56 percent are male; 44 percent are female; 65 percent are African-American; 26 percent are Caucasian; 7 percent are Latino; and 1 percent each are Asian and Native American.
Many people with HIV avoid seeking help because in Salisbury "everybody knows everybody," said Lawrence Jones, an HCM client. "They are too embarrassed to come forward; the information is too personal."
"If one person gets tested for HIV because our new name is welcoming and non-threatening, we have succeeded," said Dr. Gordon Senter, RCA's president.
For more information about case management services, telephone Stacey Cuevas at 704-210-5951.