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Organizations raise HIV/AIDS awareness among women

Photo by Johnny Jackson 
A photographer snaps a shot of Ava Gale Allison (from left), Wakisha Harvey, Shirlonda Hambrick-Taylor and Marie Sutton, organizers of Wednesday’s “Cheering Healing Awareness Testing” event to raise HIV/AIDS Awarness among women.

Photo by Johnny Jackson A photographer snaps a shot of Ava Gale Allison (from left), Wakisha Harvey, Shirlonda Hambrick-Taylor and Marie Sutton, organizers of Wednesday’s “Cheering Healing Awareness Testing” event to raise HIV/AIDS Awarness among women.

MORROW — Event organizers educated, celebrated and promoted sisterhood this week out of concern for an issue affecting thousands of women yearly.

In so doing, they raised HIV/AIDS awareness.

Shirlonda Hambrick Taylor is the women’s coordinator for the Georgia Department of Behavioral Health & Developmental Disabilities Division of Addictive Disease. She helped coordinate Wednesday’s “Let’s C.H.A.T. Healthy Love Party” at the Paula Crane Life Enrichment Center in Morrow.

The event’s theme emphasized cheering, healing, awareness and testing. It targeted women — both infected and non-infected — to help them learn how to prevent the spread of the virus or learn how to live with it.

Thousands across the U.S learn how to live with HIV each year. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates about 50,000 Americans are newly infected annually.

Women represented 24 percent of all diagnoses of HIV infection among United States adults and adolescents in 40 states with long-established, confidential name-based reporting, according to 2009 HIV surveillance data at the CDC. That year, there were an estimated 11,200 new HIV infections among women.

About 100 women throughout central Georgia participated in Wednesday’s event.

The party was hosted by the Clayton Center Community Service Board and fellow sponsors Imagine Hope Inc., the HIV Early Intervention Services Program and the Division of Addictive Diseases.

Hambrick Taylor said it was designed to celebrate National Women and Girls’ HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, officially observed March 10, and served as a way to educate women about the infection and disease.

“We wanted to get as many people as we could to come out,” she said.

Several state and local officials in health care and social work presented at the annual conference where women received information about HIV/AIDS, how it can be transmitted and ways to protect against infection.

Hambrick-Taylor said the event also offered same-day HIV/AIDS testing.

“I look at it from a holistic approach,” said Hambrick-Taylor. “As women, we do not take care of ourselves; we’re constantly on the move. But we have to learn to care for ourselves, too.”