CHARLOTTE, N.C. (WBTV) - Atrium Health, Mecklenburg County Public Health and Novant Health teamed up Thursday to provide access to HIV screenings, education resources and services in Mecklenburg County.
The team is called ONE Charlotte Health Alliance, and was formed by Atrium Health, Mecklenburg County Public Health and Novant Health.
The alliance provided free human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) screenings to the Charlotte area on June 27 in recognition of National HIV Testing Day.
Free screenings were offered on the ONE Charlotte Health Alliance mobile health units from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m. on Thursday, June 27 at Hal Marshall Building parking lot in Uptown Charlotte (700 N. Tryon St.) and in the Walgreens parking lot at the corner of Freedom Drive and Ashley Road (3251 Freedom Drive).
The Charlotte Metropolitan area, including seven counties in North Carolina, has one of the highest rates in the nation for new HIV infections according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).
Over 6,600 Charlotteans live with HIV today according to Mecklenburg County Public Health, and as many as 700 more may be infected but unaware of their status.
Together, ONE Charlotte Health Alliance partners are teaming up to encourage community members to get screened as well as receive education materials and case management services, if needed.
“ONE Charlotte Health Alliance, a coalition intending to address barriers to health care by improving access to health services and resources in the communities that need it most, has identified HIV and STD prevention as one of the top nine health issues ranked in our county,” a press release read.
While HIV infection rates among adolescents and adults declined 18% between 2014 and 2016, each year an average of 250 to 300 new HIV infections are reported, adding to the growing number of people living with HIV across Mecklenburg County.
“In Mecklenburg County alone nearly 1 in 5 young adults aged 20 to 24 years old are diagnosed with HIV,” said Sveta Mohanan, MD, family medicine physician with Atrium Health. “ONE Charlotte Health Alliance’s goal is to educate the community on prevention and treatment as well as offer resources and services for those seeking help. As a health care organization committed to improving the health of our community, we are proud to be extending these free services in partnership with Novant Health and Mecklenburg County Public Health to those needing assistance, ensuring each community member receives the care and treatment they need.”
“Keeping with the ‘Doing It My Way’ theme for National Testing Day this year, this partnership allows for expanded HIV/STD screenings in non-traditional locations and at non-traditional times in the community. People can access services in a way that is most convenient for them,” said Matt Jenkins, HIV/STD community services health manager for Mecklenburg County. “The CDC [Centers for Disease Control and Prevention] recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 get tested for HIV at least once as part of their routine health care and people with specific risk factors should get tested at least once a year. “
“The prevalence of HIV in Charlotte is highest in zip codes with limited access to specialized health care,” said Rhett Brown, MD, of Novant Health Midtown Family Medicine. “As the city of Charlotte continues to focus on improving access to health care for these communities, we are proud to partner with Atrium Health and the Mecklenburg County Health Department. Our goal is to make sure that people directly affected are connected with the right resources and to educate our communities about ways to reduce risk of exposure to HIV.”
ONE Charlotte Health Alliance’s free screenings support Mecklenburg County’s Getting to Zero Mecklenburg initiative, a community plan to reduce new cases of HIV in Mecklenburg County.
Outside of June 27, HIV and STD screenings are offered around Mecklenburg County at a variety of locations and alternative hours with no appointment needed. For more information, call the Mecklenburg County Public Health at 704-432-TEST (8378).