Benefit ride to raise HIV awareness

By: By Beth Lawrence - Staff report

LAURINBURG — Scotland County Health Department is holding its Second Annual Harleys for HEART benefit ride to educate the public about HIV/ AIDS and encourage people to get tested.

The ride is coordinated by the department’s HIV Education and Resource Team – HEART − and the Border Belt AIDS Team BART.

The Harleys for HEART Ride will be Saturday from 8:30 a.m. to 1 p.m. at the J.L. Morgan Complex on Turnpike Road.

This focus of the day is to promote National HIV Testing Day on June 27.

The Health Department wants to make sure everyone to “knows their status” by getting themselves tested.

This year’s theme is − Test Your Way; Do It Today. It is a call to get tested now and a reminder that there are more ways than ever to get an HIV test, according to Public Health Educator Kathie Cox. It does not matter where the test is done as long as it is done. Residents can visit a: clinic like Scotland County Health Department, a health care provider, a testing event, at home, or from a local organization. The Health Department provides free HIV / AIDS testing five days a week.

Bikers should arrive by 8:30 a.m. to register, and the ride begins at 9 a.m., and bikers will be escorted around the county by the Scotland County Sheriff’s Department.

There will be plenty of free activities for children and adults including face painting, music, corn hole and games. The Splash Pad will be open for free to those participating in the event from 10 a.m. to noon. Door prizes and refreshments will be available.

The will also be a yard sale with proceeds going to HEART.

A guest speaker will provide a short presentation on living with HIV, and staff from the Health Department will be available to provide information on testing and the disease, according to Social Worker Michirena Lowery.

HEART’s goal is to raise awareness about the impact HIV has on Scotland County. Membership to the organization is open to the public. The program also provides extra funding for indigent patients who might need help for treatment, according to Cox.

“We invite everyone to join. HEART is for all residents of Scotland County not just health department staff. We’re always looking for new faces,” Lowery said.

The department’s educators want residents to know that the number of people living with this disease is increasing in Scotland County.

As of 2016 Scotland County reported 136 cases of residents living with HIV.

The US number of people living with HIV stands at an estimated 1.1 million; that number includes approximately 162,500 people who are unaware of their status. In North Carolina the number was 36,700 at the end of 2016. Of that number 2,500 are estimated to be undiagnosed. If that trend continues, 1 person in 93 in the state will be diagnosed with HIV in their lifetime.

According to experts, almost 40 percent of new HIV infections are transmitted by people who are living with ‘undiagnosed’ HIV. For those who are living with undiagnosed HIV, testing is the first step in maintaining a healthy life and reducing the spread of the disease.

Nearly 43 percent of new diagnoses were in people between the ages of 20 and 29 in 2016.

Healthcare professionals recommend screening for HIV be performed routinely for all patients aged 13 to 64 years.

For information about HIV/AIDS or the HEART Ride, call HEART Chair Brenda Tyson at Scotland County Health Department at 277-2470 ext. 4406 or Co-chair Michirena Lowry, ext. 4476, or visit www.cdc.gov/nchhstp/ or www.cdc.gov/hiv/.

By Beth Lawrence

Staff report

Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169

Reach Beth Lawrence 910-506-3169