PRESS RELEASE CONTACT: Ron Graham(440) 350-2358
April 4, 2012 Michele Melnick, (440) 350-2190
LAKE COUNTY GENERAL HEALTH DISTRICT
A HEALTHIER AMERICA BEGINS WITH REPRODUCTIVE AND SEXUAL HEALTH – NATIONAL PUBLIC HEALTH WEEK 2012
LAKE COUNTY GENERAL HEALTH DISTRICT PEER TO PEER PROGRAM
There are approximately 19 million new cases of sexually transmitted infections (STIs) in the United States each year – almost half occur in young people ages 15 to 24. In addition, more than one million people in the United States are estimated to be living with HIV infection and more than 50,000 people become infected each year. Routine screenings and education can go a long way toward helping Americans improve reproductive and sexual health. These measures will lower the risk of disease and deaths that could have been prevented.
LAKE COUNTY GENERAL HEALTH DISTRICT PEER TO PEER PROGRAM – CHRIS’ STORY
The Lake County General Health District has run a Peer to Peer program for people living with HIV/AIDS for over two years. Funded in part by a federal grant through the Cleveland Ryan White Part A Planning Council, this program is used to help those with HIV and AIDS manage the daily challenges of isolation, social stigma, the social service safety net and, most importantly, get people into care and keep them in care.
Most people living with HIV/AIDS are typically dealing with multiple issues in their lives, including poor mental health, substance abuse and past incarceration. Mentors in the Peer to Peer program meet with their peers and talk about issues in their lives, such as how they are doing on taking their medicines, visiting their doctors and dealing with their life challenges. Peer mentors are part nurse, part financial planner, part counselor, part dietician, part life coach and part confidant. Peer mentors work under the direction of a licensed social worker to keep them focused and on track.
I am one such mentor. My name is Chris and I was diagnosed with HIV in 2004. I am a gay male age 51.
One of my hugely successful peers is Rick (not his real name). He was diagnosed with HIV in January 2011 while a patient in the hospital with PCP (Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia) a type of pneumonia that typically only affects people with severely depressed immune systems. Rick had only four T-helper cells, a type of white blood cell that helps fight off infection and disease. A healthy person has between 600 and 1200 T-helper cells. I talked with Rick via phone and told him it was going to be okay as long as he listened to his doctors and took his medicines. I went with Rick to his first appointment to his infectious disease doctor. I talked with Rick about how to disclose his HIV status to his family and friends. We talked about going back to work. Today, Rick is probably doing better as a person than at any other time in his adult life. He has wishes and dreams for the future. He will soon be transitioning to a full-time job with healthcare benefits and Rick now has his own peers to mentor through their journey to a full, happy, healthy, and productive life.
Lake County General Health District provides HIV testing on the following days and sites:
- Every Tuesday from 2:00 p.m. to 6:00 p.m. at the Lake County General Health District, 33 Mill Street, Painesville, Ohio 44077.
- Every First Wednesday of the Month from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 noon at Ashtabula City Health Department, Municipal Building, 4717 Main Avenue, Ashtabula, Ohio 44004.
- Every First Wednesday of the Month from 1:30 p.m. to 3:30 p.m. at Conneaut City Health Department, 327 Mill Street, Conneaut, Ohio 44030.
For more information, call (440) 350-2056.