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People helping people: New methods needed to fight old enemy

It's a new year with many of the old challenges. AID Gwinnett continues to seek out effective means to deliver our mission to our community.

Change is inevitable and seems to be everywhere in the media these days. With change comes sadness but with the promise of new beginnings. Essie Rowser, the chairperson of our board of directors, announced her retirement in January.

Under her leadership, AID Gwinnett has grown strong and responsive to our community's needs. She will be dearly missed, but her legacy will carry us forward. Two new board members were nominated and accepted at this time as well - Barbara Pendleton and Sedessia Spivey. Pendleton has many years experience in the public health sector, working as a biochemist. Spivey has a strong history of community advocacy. We welcome them both warmly and feel strengthened by their presence in our fight against HIV/AIDS.

With new infection statistics climbing to an alarming rate of a nearly 50 percent increase, new methods are necessary to fight an old enemy. AID Gwinnett's prevention department is pleased to announce the creation of our Social Networks Program, provided by a grant award received from the Georgia Department of Human Resources and The Center for Disease Control (CDC). The Social Networks Program is coordinated by Mario Mann and works to engage a high risk group, African-American MSM (men who have sex with men) and their partners and friends. The Social Networks Program employs methods to target these individuals, open up a dialogue about HIV prevention and to offer free testing.

As a part of this program, participants can earn free gift cards by enlisting people within their network of friends or contacts to also be tested. This outreach model can have far reaching effects within this high risk group, providing critical knowledge about prevention and linking those in need to care. Identifying undiagnosed persons and linking them to care is critical in controlling the rate of infection. African-American MSM's are only one of several high risk groups.

Certain qualifications and training requirements are necessary to participate. Please contact Mario Mann at 678-990-6431 or at MannM@aidgwinnett.org for more information about "the network."

The disease continues to find ways of reaching throughout our community, but together we can reach farther.

AID Gwinnett is a dynamic non-profit agency that provides HIV/AIDS medical and supportive services, prevention, volunteer and advocacy programs to Gwinnett, Rockdale and Newton Counties.

There is still no cure; there is still no vaccine available; we still need your support. Visit www.aidgwinnett.org or call 770-962-8396 to learn more about our services and volunteer programs.

"People Helping People" is a weekly column written by the executive directors of nonprofit organizations in Gwinnett County. Today's article was written by Larry Lehman of AID Gwinnett.

Need help or know someone who does? The Gwinnett Helpline directs callers to the appropriate nonprofit agency. Call 770-995-3339.