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Raising HIV/AIDS awareness

DEMOPOLIS &8212; Although HIV/AIDS has faded from the media spotlight in the last several years, research shows it is still a prevalent and serious problem. This message, along with measures for prevention, is the cause of the Soul of Courage Health Initiative.

The organization, which is the result of a successful awareness and testing program funded by grant funds, is in the process of applying for status to be considered a non-profit organization so they can expand their program into Marengo County.

According to Liz Klymenko, a registered nurse who is the wellness counselor for the organization, a grant through Selma Air has allowed them to teach courses about HIV and AIDS and also do confidential testing. They also recently partnered with the Theo Ratliff Center to offer awareness and prevention programs to the public free of charge.

Klymenko said they were able to implement a program through New Era Cap Company that provided comprehensive testing, education and counseling from November 2006 to November 2007. They hope to expand their message into other large workplaces in the area.

Klymenko said they chose the workplace as a place to begin spreading their knowledge because not everyone is able to afford the time or cost of visiting a health clinic on their own time. Furthermore, it is a way to build trust between employers and employees.

Jerry Mitchell, who coordinates the men&8217;s health projects, agrees.

In his experience with counseling, he said he has heard numerous untrue stories about AIDS including how it is contracted and what its effects are. His major concern is to get the proper knowledge out there so people can prevent themselves and others from spreading the disease.

Recent statistics from the Center for Disease Control and Prevention show that AIDS is the leading cause of death for females age 25-34. Furthermore, 67 percent of all new cases of HIV/AIDS were black females.

These statistics and others have made Klymenko and Mitchell even more adamant about educating people on the facts of the disease and also how to prevent it.

Their goal now is to continue to raise funds so they can get the organization running. Mitchell said they also plan to become certified to do testing, so they integrate it into their programs.

If you would like to learn more about the Soul of Courage Health Initiative contact Liz at 334-295-1442.