Angela Vick-Lewis never thought she was at risk for contracting HIV. Free HIV testing was offered during her church’s New Year’s Eve party in 2006, and she thought nothing of taking the quick test.

“My son and I both took the test and we both came back positive,” said the 55-year-old Durham resident. “I couldn’t believe it. We were referred for further testing. I prayed he would be negative and that only I would be positive.”

Vick-Lewis’ prayers were answered. Additional tests revealed a false negative result for her teenage son, but another positive result for her. She has been living with HIV for nine years and has used the diagnosis as a springboard to join research studies and educate the community. She will be one of three women living with HIV on a patient panel discussing access to HIV care during the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s 18th World AIDS Day Symposium on Thursday, Dec. 1, from 8:30 a.m. to 3 p.m. in room 1131 of the Bioinformatics Building on campus. Click here to register and here for a list of presenters.

“Educating the community is so important because people have many misconceptions about HIV,” said Vick-Lewis, who has been a part of the Women’s Interagency HIV Study (WIHS) at UNC for the past three years. “I had a friend ask me if you can get HIV from sharing a cigarette with someone. I am glad I disclosed my status to him and was able to be a resource for him to answer these questions.”

In the United States, 382 out of every 100,000 Americans are living with HIV, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). In North Carolina, 327 out of every 100,000 residents are living with HIV. The numbers vary by where people live in the state. In Durham County, this number doubles with 656 people out of every 100,000 living with the virus. Educating the Durham community about HIV has been the mission of Allison Mathews, PhD, founder of 2Beat HIV and a researcher within the UNC Institute of Global Health & Infectious Diseases(IGHID).

“We try to empower people to know that they are the experts on what they need in their communities,” Mathews said. “If we want to find a cure, we need ideas and solutions from community members just as much as we need scientific advances in HIV research.”

Read the rest of the article here:

Patients, Researchers Celebrate World AIDS Day with Educational Event


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