The five-year grant from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, a branch of the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, will provide HIV and Hepatitis B and C testing to black heterosexual adults in Cobb, Douglas and Cherokee counties.
“This money is important because HIV in the African American community is at an epidemic level right now,” said Stacy Hull, program director for the CSB’s LifeLine Project.
Hull said that a 2009 study showed 1 in 16 black men and 1 in 30 black women were infected with HIV. She said drug use puts many at risk, both because of the dangers of sharing needles and the increased likelihood it will lead to unprotected sex.
Cobb and Douglas counties had a combined 1,288 people living with AIDS and 1,030 people with non-AIDS HIV as of 2009, the most recent year the Georgia Department of Community Health provided statistics. While those numbers were a fraction of Fulton and DeKalb counties, they did lead any other county or region in the state.
Along with testing, the LifeLine Project will include prevention education and referrals to mental health and drug treatment centers. While the program won’t provide medication to HIV patients, Hull said it will have “health care navigators” that can lead them to treatment.
CSB is hiring staff for the program and hopes to have it up and running by mid-January, Hull said. “Walk-in” HIV testing will be available at the Cobb Recovery Center at 331 North Marietta Parkway in Marietta.
Just because HIV and AIDS don’t receive the same publicity they have in years past doesn’t mean they have gone away, Hull said.
“The medication for it has definitely gotten a lot better,” she said. “As a community, we have definitely taken our eye off it, but it’s still devastating our community.”
The program will treat at least 75 people each year for five years, Hull said.
“We’re just very excited about the opportunity to serve the community,” she said.
The Cobb and Douglas community service boards provide help to residents challenged with mental health, developmental or addition problems and provides them with care and resources.
CSB executive director Tod Citron said the program seeks to mobilize the community in reducing the spread of HIV among black residents.
“HIV infection is totally preventable,” he said. “The Cobb CSB wants to do its part to help educate a segment of its treatment population to prevent the spread of this devastating disease.”