“Get Down” — Power Over HIV
“Medical advances have progressed HIV/ AIDS from being a terminal disease to a chronic disease,” says Dr. John Norwood, an infectious diseases physician and medical director of the center. “Patients used to take multiple pills every day, but now they only have to take one, and it’s more effective. In addition, the side effects have been greatly reduced.”
“While no cure for HIV has been found yet,” says Dr. Norwood, “today’s medicines can reduce the measurement of the virus in the bloodstream to the point that it is undetectable.” A lower viral blood count allows patients to live longer, healthier lives and reduces the risk of passing the virus to others.
Unfortunately, almost one-fourth of HIV-positive adults in Memphis have high viral counts. The problem is especially acute among the HIV-positive African American population.
To help educate and motivate HIV-positive patients, Regional One Health launched a public service campaign last winter with financial support from the Ryan White Funds. Dubbed “Power Over HIV,” the campaign seeks to remind HIV-positive patients to follow their treatment regimens.
The most visible aspect of the campaign is a music-themed mural in South Memphis with the title of “Get Down,” a reference both to music and to the goal of keeping viral counts low.
WE LET THEM KNOW SOMEONE LOVES THEM
Melissa Wright is a case manager at the center. With everything they do for their clients, Melissa says one thing is the most important of all: “Many of our patients have no one left in their lives to love them. We let them know someone loves them.”
Current patient Mildred Richards agrees. “As soon as I walked through the door, Melissa came over and hugged me. I had not been hugged by anyone since the diagnosis. I just stood there and cried.” Read Mildred’s story.
Melissa has been working with HIV patients for 16 years. How does she maintain her enthusiasm in spite of the challenges her patients face?
“For me, it’s personal,” she says. “I have family members who are HIV-positive, and I want to do everything in my power to help. Who knows, I may need help someday.”