Tennessee: Clinic Bolsters AIDS Care Capability
September 16, 2003
The building that houses Chattanooga Cares, an HIV/AIDS community-based organization, does not have a sign out front, "because people don't want those who are bringing them here to know what it is for," said W. Steven White, executive director.Adapted from:
Such persistent stigma demonstrates the need for the organization's newest service: a primary care medical clinic. "There is still such stigma here, and there are doctors here that won't treat you in this community," White said.
Local AIDS rates increased from 2001 to 2002, according to the Tennessee Department of Health. Thirty-nine Hamilton County residents tested positive in 2002, as opposed to 32 in 2001. Dr. Mark Anderson, a local infectious disease specialist, said health experts see new cases every week in Chattanooga and surrounding areas.
White said the recent trip by U.S. Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist (R-Tenn.) and Sen. Lamar Alexander (R-Tenn.) to Africa to examine the AIDS crisis was "good news, bad news."
He said local HIV/AIDS patients and caregivers were proud that Tennessee's two senators are in the forefront of battling the pandemic, but do not understand why Washington is giving billions to other countries while many suffer here. "Thanks for the attention, but don't forget that your own people are dying," White remarked.
Chattanooga Cares, which doubled its budget and moved into a new building in December 2002, offers services from AIDS testing and counseling to help with bills, food, transportation, insurance issues, nutrition, mental health and infectious diseases. The clinic already has 150 patients, surpassing its goal of 140 patients by next spring. Clients range in age from 9 to 67.
"We are very cutting edge and the first in the state to do the rapid testing," White said. "The federal government came to look at the clinic and wanted to use us as a model."
Much remains to be done, however. "My goal one day is to have a sign out front that identifies ourselves," White said.
Chattanooga Times Free Press
09.14.03; Edward Lee Pitts
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.