VSU recognizes World AIDS Day with free HIV testing - WALB.com, South Georgia News, Weather, Sports

VSU recognizes World AIDS Day with free HIV testing

By Jade Bulecza - bio | email

VALDOSTA, GA (WALB) –An estimated 31 million people worldwide are living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.

Tuesday was a day to bring awareness to that staggering number and help prevent other infections.

People lined up on the Valdosta State University campus today to get tested on World AIDS Day. 

They also heard from a doctor on the consequences of the disease and the importance of AIDS education.

VSU student LaRon Connely was passing through the University Center to grab lunch, noticed the HIV testing table, and decided to get tested.

"It's something I feel like everyone should do," said Connely.

 About 200 students took a mouth swab test and got their results in 20 minutes.

"If they know their status they can take care of themselves and take medication which will prolong their life and if they're on medication they're less likely to transmit it to someone else," said South Health District's January Smith.

The testing is part of World AIDS day. For the past two years, South Health District has partnered with VSU to offer this free testing.

Health officials at South Health District say there are 1,024 confirmed cases of HIV in Lowndes County. However, this number could actually be larger since many people who have it don't know they have it.

"About one in five people in the United are infected and don't know they have it," said Smith.

Dr. Harold Katner has been caring for HIV and AIDS patients in middle Georgia for 20 years. He wants people understand the reality of the disease.

"We have very good treatment right now," said Dr. Katner, Chief of Infectious Diseases and Professor of Internal Medicine at Mercer University School of Medicine. "It's very expensive very toxic at times and most people do very well with it but the answer is not creating an AIDS drug, the answer is prevention."

He says children are inundated with sex on TV, but they don't see the consequences.

"How can a child make an informed decision about their behavior when they don't know about the consequences," said Dr. Katner.

Dr. Katner says when children start learning about sex they also need to learn about HIV and AIDS.

The Lowndes County Health Department offers HIV testing and counseling services at its main clinic in Valdosta and also in Lake Park and Hahira.

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