Health Team

Van Brings HIV Testing, Treatment to Rural Areas

Posted January 29, 2007 5:08 p.m. EST
Updated January 29, 2007 7:29 p.m. EST

State health leaders are concerned about the spread of HIV. The concern is greatest in 27 counties of eastern North Carolina, where people are often unable to test for HIV or manage the disease.

HIV prevention and treatment is a big topic every year at the State Health Directors' Conference, but the problem continues to grow.

“We know that there are about 2,000 reported HIV/AIDS cases in North Carolina,” said N.C. AIDS Director Evelyn Foust. “Every year, we have about 1,800 cases, on average, reported.”

A bulk of those new cases is in eastern North Carolina. That's the reason why the Health in Motion van was created. Foust said the van will take medical care to the patients.

“One of our major barriers for people is just transportation to get to the doctor,” she said.

In the remote rural counties of the North Carolina mountains, it's estimated that one out of 14 individuals has access to a primary-care doctor. So a mobile unit offers an option to those who might otherwise use the emergency room or have no care at all.

The Brody School of Medicine at Eastern Carolina University will help staff the van as it travels to places like Hertford County, beginning in Feburary. The program also offers basic health screening tests like cholesterol and blood pressure checks.

“We want the public involved in coming out and getting HIV testing as part of those normal services,” said Hertford County Public Health director Curtis Dixon.

The testing will identify people who are HIV-positive and get treatment for them as early as possible.

“In this day and time, we know how to treat HIV infection,” Foust said. “It's important that people access that care early, and people can live (with HIV) as long as anybody else."