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Georgia organizations push for HIV testing after pandemic lull

Georgia organizations push for HIV testing after pandemic lull
Published: Jun. 23, 2022 at 6:15 PM EDT
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ATLANTA, Ga. (CBS46) - The hallways at MotherHouse in Atlanta were empty throughout much of the pandemic. Before the pandemic, MotherHouse was a place to go for HIV testing, counseling and support.

During the height of COVID-19 SisterLove offered their services online.

”People may think that the HIV epidemic is in the past because we don’t hear about it as much as we did decades ago but I can assure you there is an absolute need for these services because HIV is prevalent in communities of color,” said Sybil Miller with SisterLove.

According to a 2020 report from the CDC, there was a decrease in people diagnosed with HIV, and a decrease in people getting tested over the pandemic.

The report attributes those numbers to decreased availability of tests or testing places, and people waiting until COVID cases dropped in their area to get tested.

”I offer free STI and HIV testing and counseling and offer education as it relates to healthy love,” said Damaris Henderson, prevention specialist at SisterLove.

Organizations like SisterLove are trying to bring testing numbers back up.

”We like to provide a space, or a place for those who, are affected whether you have the virus or you love someone who has the virus, can come to for information, evidence-based knowledge, a place where you can just be you and we can talk it out,” said Miller.

There is a stigma attached to HIV, a stigma the staff at SisterLove works intentionally to demolish in big ways like education, free HIV testing and support and small ways.

”We don’t say positive, we say reactive...we are not doctors or clinicians,” said Henderson.

Staff members say fighting the stigma around HIV, makes people more comfortable getting the medical attention they need to live long and healthy lives.

”It serves a community that I am a part of, that is why. It is about me. It reflects the people that I live with, that I work with, that I associate with. It gives me a sort of revelation of my own life,” said Henderson.

”It is okay. You are not the only one who is impacted. There is life after this diagnosis,” said Miller.