Atlanta, Georgia –
Local, state and federal health officials committed to fighting HIV joined the Georgia Department of Community Health (DCH) to announce the launch of a new Georgia initiative, Taking Control, during a press conference today at the Loudermilk Center. Taking Control is a statewide HIV/STD awareness and prevention initiative developed by and for gay and bisexual men in Georgia.
“HIV infection rates among gay men are more than 44 times higher than rates among heterosexual men,” said Dr. M. Rony Francois, MD, MSPH, PhD, Director of DCH’s Division of Public Health and State Health Officer. “We developed the Taking Control Initiative because Georgia is clearly in urgent need of a comprehensive HIV prevention campaign for gay and bisexual men.”
In Georgia, there were 2,926 new HIV infections reported in 2008. In 2007, Georgia ranked eighth among the 50 states for the cumulative total number of AIDS cases since the start of the epidemic in the early 1980’s. By the end of 2008, Georgia’s ranking jumped to sixth place.
The Taking Control press conference was the first in a series of events taking place this weekend leading up to National Gay Men’s HIV Awareness Day on Monday, September 27. The second part in the series is a town hall meeting being held today at the Loudermilk Center at 6:30 p.m. Panel members participating in the town hall meeting include:
• Melissa Carter, Co-host of the Bert show all the Hits Q100 Radio
• Terrence Moore, Associate Director of Racial &Ethnic Health Disparities with the National Alliance of State and Territorial AIDS Directors (NASTAD)
• Stephen M. Massey, Associate Director of Entertainment Media Partnerships with the Kaiser Family Foundation
• Isaac Kelly, President of Augusta Pride
• Justin Zeigler, Executive Director of Atlanta Executive Network
• Giovanni Nieves, Latino Community Leader and Volunteer
• Charles Stephens, African-American Gay Outreach Coordinator for AIDAtlanta
• Rashad Burgess, National Center for HIV/AIDS, Viral Hepatitis, STD and TB Prevention with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)
“The town hall meeting is an opportunity for the public to hear details on our plan of action while urging community members to take the first step toward Taking Control of HIV in the gay and bisexual community,” added Leisha McKinley-Beach, DCH’s HIV Prevention Program Manager. “We can’t do it alone; we need everyone’s help to achieve our ultimate goal of – No New Infections.”
During the next 12 months, the success of the Taking Control Initiative will be measured by tangible outcomes within each of the following four goals:
• Increase access to HIV prevention interventions, services and outreach aimed at men who have sex with men (MSM)
• Increase linkage to care, treatment, prevention and other supportive services for MSM who are living with HIV
• Increase individual awareness of the urgency of HIV/AIDS through social marketing
• Increase partnerships for community mobilization with non-profit agencies, faith-based organizations and for-profit businesses
For more information on HIV prevention interventions and services go to http://health.state.ga.us/programs/stdhiv/.
To view additional events/activities taking place in recognition of National Gay Men’s HIV Awareness Day go to www.gatakingcontrol.org.