Imagine Hope Quarterly Report
Updated: Dec 29, 2021
July - September 2021
Middle Flint Sets New HIV Testing Record
Ansley Evans, Middle Flint CSB, Americus, Georgia
“I have big dreams for the HIV program here.” - Ansley Evans
For the second quarter in a row, HIV testing at Middle Flint is up nearly 60%. And from July through September, the agency performed 154 tests, surpassing the number of clients tested in any previous quarter. HIV/Infection Control Coordinator Ansley Ragan Evans attributes the increase to agency-wide support.
“I have big dreams for the HIV program here,” says Ansley. Middle Flint serves a 12-county area, so Ansley spends a fair amount of time on the road, depending on nurses at each site to help her connect with clients in need of testing. “It takes a great team effort,” says Ansley. “Middle Flint leadership has been extremely supportive. And HIV risk factors are built into the assessment that our nurses do on admission; they make clients aware of any behaviors that could be putting them at risk and link anyone who would like to discuss ways to reduce their risk to me.”
This quarter, seven new clients disclosed that they were HIV-positive. Of those, three who had fallen out of care were linked to medical treatment. Ansley also provides ongoing support to HIV-positive clients. With the advent of COVID, regular face-to-face appointments shifted to Zoom, but the conversations remain the same, with Ansley checking to see how each is doing and making sure they’re able to get to doctor’s appointments.
Laycee Harris, Middle Flint CSB
Finally, this quarter Ansley and Laycee Harris (formerly Sumner) participated in their first outreach event in two years. “A lot of people who have never visited a Middle Flint site will go to big events in the community, so a health fair is a great way to let folks know that we are here. The gathering was attended by more than 1200 people so we were able to make a large swath of the community aware of the services we offer.”
HIV and HCV Testing Up at Avita
“It's exciting and it's challenging." - Jessie Dickerson
With 58 HIV tests and 163 Hepatitis C (HCV) screens, testing at Avita is up – thanks in part to a beautiful new facility housing a 34-bed crisis unit and an outpatient wing, says HIV/HCV Coordinator Jessie Dickerson.
"It's exciting and it's challenging," says Jessie. Exciting because she's able to do more testing and challenging because when they arrive, "some of the patients don't really want to be here. But from the point of intake through every step toward discharge, patients are given the support they need for a new beginning - including knowing their HIV and HCV status and, for those in need of treatment, linkage to care."
When the facility reaches full capacity, Jessie anticipates that testing will climb even more – and she is aiming to win top honors for Avita at the next annual meeting. “My goal is to out-test Highland Rivers,"* says Jessie.
* Highland Rivers is one of the top testing agencies in the state.
“I miss seeing everyone in person. That human interaction means so much. We have to get this pandemic under control. The thing is, with COVID, you never know. So whenever I do testing, I mask up, I sanitize, I wash after every patient, and most of the time I make sure that my patients have on a mask too.”
South Georgia Veteran Has Learned to Engage Clients
Debra Wallace, New Beginnings in Thomasville, Georgia
"You have to really work at it to make people want to come to you. I try to use every contact. If I test soeone with high-risk behaviors, I ask, 'Do you think your friends would like to be tested?'” - Debra Wallace
Thomasville, Georgia is a pretty town just 20 miles from the Florida state line. With a population of 18,500, it's a community where, says to Debra Wallace with a laugh, “everybody knows everybody and we’re all interested in everyone else’s business.”
Debra joined the Early Intervention Services program in 1999 – before rapid tests and at a time when the stigma surrounding HIV was even greater than it is today. “When first I started, I knew nothing about HIV/AIDS and I was scared. I honestly was afraid that casual contact would put me at risk. So I understand when others feel that way.”
A lot has changed since 1999, but unreasonable fears still come with the territory. It’s part of the job to educate; to combat stigma with solid, reliable information. Debra continues to bring her compassion, commitment, and a flair for celebration to the cause. Over the years, she has successfully encouraged local pastors to stand before their congregations and publicly take an HIV test. She has organized countless awareness events from a candle-lit memorial service for loved ones lost to AIDS to Singing for a Cure.
In honor of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, Debra Wallace (3rd from right) helped organize Singing for a Cure.