Health Department to host HIV/AIDS lecture

ALBANY -- As part of a monthly lecture series, the Dougherty County Health Department is hosting a session Friday on HIV/AIDS.

Human immunodeficiency virus, also known as HIV, is the virus that causes AIDS, which stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. AIDS is the final stage of HIV infection.

HIV continues to take a severe toll on multiple communities in the United States, with gay and bisexual men of all races, African Americans and Latinos bearing the heaviest burden.

"We are still diagnosing cases on a weekly basis," said Vamella Lovett, adult health director at the health department.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimates that about 1 million people in the United States are living with HIV or AIDS. Nearly one-quarter of these people do not know they are infected.

"Some people, even though they are living in some kind of lifestyle in which they could have it, they don't want to get tested," Lovett explained. "They just don't want to know."

Due to advancements in managing the condition, HIV/AIDS is treated as a chronic illness. Even so, that does not lessen the need to educate.

"The earlier they find it, the earlier they can start treating you," Lovett said. "We still want (residents) to learn how important it is. We have known patients that have done well for 20 years."

The event is scheduled to take place from noon to 1 p.m., and will include a lunch followed by a question and answer session.

"(The timing) makes it very convenient for those that want to participate," Lovett said. "We are looking forward to a lot of people coming out."

The guest speaker for the event will be Dr. Craig Smith with Infectious Diseases Consultants of Southwest Georgia. The health department is located at 1710 S. Slappey Blvd.

The Dougherty County Health Department has been hosting a lecture series on public health-related issues since September. Sessions are generally held on the first Friday of each month.

So far, the sessions have been successful in terms of public interest.

"We've had to turn people away each time," Lovett said.

As of midday Wednesday, the space for the session was two-thirds full. The room set aside for the lecture holds roughly 70 people.

To ensure sufficient seating will be available, those interested in attending should register by calling (229) 430-6230.