Advocacy group says there are up to 500 cases of HIV in Houston County

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DOTHAN, Ala. (WDHN) — According to health experts, Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), awareness and normalization is needed to work toward a cure.

In Houston county, there are up to 500 known cases of HIV. That is why a local organization is dedicated to helping people with the disease.

The Medical Advocacy and Outreach program, also known as MAO, is located throughout Alabama and is a recognized leader in HIV treatment, prevention, and education.

“HIV is a blood to blood contact virus,” said MAO Media Relations Specialist, Thomas Stephens. “HIV is the virus itself it’s the very thing we look for in testing. Someone living with HIV has to be monitored for various levels of that virus in their body. People living with HIV do not necessarily have an AIDS diagnosis.”

There is a difference between AIDS and HIV. HIV testing is crucial because if left untreated, HIV can lead to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

“HIV testing day began in 1995, then by an organization called the National Association For People With AIDS,” Stephens said. “That group’s efforts pioneered so much more than just one day but it laid the foundation for the terms of dignity and respect that all people living with HIV are due and should be given whether it be care or socially.”

According to Stephens, that group spurred countless other organizations, including the CDC, to deliver national HIV testing days such as June 27th, and other awareness.

“Testing should be something that is routinely integrated into their lives and their care because it all starts with testing,” Stephens explained.

Here are some commonly confusing statements regarding HIV:

  • Fact or myth: Once you have been treated for HIV you have been cured. Answer: Myth
  • Fact or myth: HIV is a sexually transmitted disease. Answer: Myth
  • Fact or myth: You can only get HIV if you are gay or a drug user. Answer: Myth
  • Fact or myth: You can get tested and have results on the same day. Answer: Fact

According to the MAO, there is no face to HIV, which is why testing is important because anyone can get it due to it being a blood to blood transmitted disease. Contrary to some assumptions, the MAO says 59% of their clients are heterosexual, and 32% are women.

Testing is available at any MAO full-service clinic location during public hours as well as other convenient locations as scheduled. However, due to COVID-19 precautions, make sure to call and schedule your appointment at 1-800-510-4704 or visit MAO’s website.

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