HIV/Aids awareness group holds health fair

Published 10:11 pm Monday, July 14, 2008

DEMOPOLIS — On July 26 the Soul of Courage Health Initiative will host another in a series of health fairs and programs for the community to help aid in public awareness about HIV/AIDS.

The Soul of Courage health initiative is the brainchild of Liz Klymenko, a registered nurse who moved back to her native rural Alabama from New York to help educate the public. Her organization is the result of a successful awareness and testing program funded by grant funds, and they are in the process of applying for status to be considered a non-profit organization.

This month’s health fair will focus on both providing information about HIV/AIDS and also providing health screening services like diabetes testing, blood pressure checking, cholesterol testing. Their first health fair was held in January, but the organization really began with a successful testing program at New Era Cap Company.

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“We’re hoping for a big crowd,” Klymenko said. “We hope maybe 200 people will come, and we really want to focus on teenagers.”

The event will be held at the Theo Ratliff Center, which recently allowed Klymenko to set up a home office in the upcoming expansion of their facility. Once Klymenko has a place to operate from, she hopes to begin offering on-site confidential testing for HIV/AIDS.

Although HIV/AIDS has faded from the media spotlight in the last several years, research shows it is still a prevalent and serious problem, and Klymenko said now is just as good a time as any for people to get tested. Another important factor is having informative conversations about the realities of the disease, one which is known as a “silent killer” for the fact that it can be dormant for up to 20 years before a person ever shows symptoms of infection. Also, after a person contracts the disease, it is a chronic illness that can only be controlled, not cured.

In the past, Klymenko said communities have shied away from the message of education because they claim it interferes with moral and religious doctrinal beliefs and views.

“We have to deal in reality,” she said. “We are not advocating sexual relationships, but they happen and you have to deal with the hand that was dealt to you.”

But there will also be an element of fun at the event, Klymenko said. They will have food and entertainment provided by Setitoff and Medieval Records. The fair will run from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. and employees from the Demopolis Fire and Rescue Department and Tombigbee Emergency Medical Services will be on site, as well as Dr. L. Ruby Broomes, male health issues; and Dr. Edward Rogers will have a mind, body and spirit interlude at 10:30 a.m.