Halifax Doctors, Volunteers Seek HIV Carriers
Posted December 16, 1997 12:00 a.m. EST
ROANOKE RAPIDS — It's been more than 10 years since scientists discovered AIDS, but many people living with the virus still suffer from the stigma associated with it. That's one reason doctors say about 90% of AIDS victims never seek help. Now volunteers are working with professionals in two communities to get help to the people who need it.
In rural communities like Halifax County, many people don't know they have HIV until physical problems force them into the emergency room. So, doctors and a small group of AIDS patients are looking for people who have the virus but don't know it.
They believe that combining compassion with medical know-how will lead more AIDS patients to the help they need.
"They understand what it's like to be shunned," explains social worker Kathy Knight, "and for people to kind of turn their back on you, and they want to help. So, their way of helping is to gain knowledge and to go out and spread that knowledge."
Halifax Memorial Hospital teamed up with the health departments in Halifax and Northampton Counties to get the program running. They can treat AIDS patients themselves, but need the volunteers to bring the patients in.
Doctor Chris Szwagiel hopes the outreach workers will win the patients' trust and convince them to seek professional help.
As word on the street gets out, Knights expects new patients to come in. Patients can lead more productive lives by catching the virus before it kills them.
The group just received a grant from a charitable organization in Winston Salem. That money should keep the program running for a year. If the program succeeds, organizers hope county commissioners will help pick up the tab.