DHHS Honors HIV Survivors, Health Care Providers

Communicable Disease Branch staff are joined by University of North Carolina’s Dr. Mike Cohen (third from left) at a ceremony commemorating World AIDS Day in Raleigh.

Jan. 5, 2018 – DHHS’ Division of Public Health last month held a ceremony honoring long-term survivors of HIV and the health care providers who are helping them achieve good health and viral suppression, as part of a recognition of World AIDS Day.

Over 100 people gathered at the N.C. Museum of History on Dec. 8 to share their experiences, honor the lives of those lost, and celebrate advances in the treatment and suppression of HIV/AIDS. On display were works of art painted by North Carolinians in honor of lives lost and in recognition of survivors and health care providers engaged in efforts to find a cure for HIV/AIDS.

Governor Roy Cooper issued a proclamation recognizing Dec. 1 as World AIDS Day in North Carolina. Thanks to significant advances in medical care and treatment, World AIDS Day now honors the memories of those lost, and celebrates a brighter future for many long-term survivors of HIV.

“World AIDS Day no longer solely represents a day of remembrance, but also a day of hope,” said Jacquelyn Clymore, State HIV/STD/Hepatitis Director. “People are now living longer and living well, managing their HIV with viral suppression.”

Viral suppression makes it possible for an individual living with HIV, who has access to health care, to live a long, healthy and productive life without fear of transmitting the virus to others.

HIV, a disease without a cure, has remained a public health priority since the first case of AIDS was reported in 1984. “This commitment, shared by providers and advocates across the state, is still strong,” Clymore said. Viral suppression rates in North Carolina exceed the national average.

Stigma about the disease can prevent people from seeking early HIV testing and treatment. Clymore said there is work to be done to eliminate that stigma and to reduce HIV health disparities. 

“The goal is to assure that any barrier to equal access in HIV testing, care and treatment is addressed,” she said.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

University of North Carolina Professor Mike Cohen, MD, speaks about the history of HIV/AIDS in North Carolina and major medical advances in treatment.

Dr. Mike Cohen, a University of North Carolina professor of medicine, microbiology and immunology, spoke during the ceremony about major medical advances in the treatment of HIV/AIDS.  Cohen, who has played a key role in some of those advances, also outlined promising treatment developments on the horizon.

The Rev. Roger Hayes, pastor of the Church of The Holy Spirit Fellowship in Winston-Salem, spoke about the value of hope and the importance of recognizing and celebrating individuals who have overcome the challenges posed by HIV/AIDS.

The evening ended with a candlelight vigil of thanks and remembrance. 

For more information on HIV/AIDS treatment and prevention in North Carolina, visit epi.publichealth.nc.gov.  

Author: 
Jacquelyn Clymore, Evelyn Foust and Scott Coleman