The city of Quincy and Gadsden County are still recuperating from some negative publicity. In the February 2003 issue of Essence Magazine, the city was named one of the largest HIV infected communities in the country.
Almost one year ago to the day, the February issue of Essence was flying off the shelves. One of the articles gave the nation a look at how HIV affects the lives of Quincy residents who are diagnosed with the AIDS virus.
In last year's February issue of Essence magazine, Gadsden County and the city of Quincy were painted in a negative light. An article states this community has one of the highest HIV/Aids rates in the country.
Sixteen years ago Randall Zigler was diagnosed with HIV/AIDS. He's been using this latest medical breakthrough to help him treat the disease.
"When I found out the doctor say I got some good news and some bad news. I asked what was the good news, he says "You will live, but the bad news you've been exposed to HIV/Aids," says Randall Zigler, a Quincy resident.
Zigler says most folks in Gadsden County are not educated about the virus. He says the article in the February issue should have been an eye opener for residents in the community.
"There are a lot of people here with HIV/AIDS and a lot of them are not being treated. Some of them refuse to be treated and they just sit around when they get real, real sick that's when they want to jump and try to get help," says Zigler.
County officials say some residents were upset with article, but add the national exposure led to some necessary changes.
"It is necessary to expose the problem in order to get help. After that exposure was made that's when the feds stepped and said, "We are here to help you, what can we do," says Nancy Gee, Gadsden County Grants Coordinator.
Officials believe the article, while seemingly negative, actually had a positive impact. In fact, the number of HIV/AIDS cases has dropped significantly. In 2002, 12 HIV/AIDS cases were reported in Gadsden County. Last year that number dropped to nine.
"The Health Department, the county and the city would've still work the same way we're working now in order to combat the disease that we know is spread all over this whole nation, not just in Quincy, but everywhere," says the Quincy city manager.
The folks who shared their story in the article died right about the time it hit the stands. County officials say testing is the key to getting early treatment.
The county has taken the lead in securing several grants to help folks in the community. Friday we'll tell you how they'll use those grants.
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A few facts about AIDS and HIV
How is HIV and AIDS transmitted
Early symptoms of HIV infection
What is AIDS?
Source: http://www.niaid.nih.gov/factsheets/hivinf.htm (National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases Fact Sheet)