Outlet: GA Voice
By Ryan Watkins
The AIDS Healthcare Foundation, the self-described “largest community-based HIV medical provider in the nation,” will open an Atlanta branch later this month with support from basketball legend and HIV/AIDS activist Earvin “Magic” Johnson.
Johnson and AHF announced on Dec. 1, World AIDS Day, plans to open new clinics in Atlanta; Brooklyn, N.Y.; and Fort Worth, Tex. Dubbed the Atlanta “Magic Johnson” Healthcare Clinic, the facility is scheduled for a soft opening on May 16 at 5700 Hillendale Dr. in Lithonia.
The clinic will feature a resident doctor who specializes in HIV/AIDS, a pharmacy and additional services like testing and counseling, according to the AHF.
“At the clinic, we’re going to offer HIV primary care, laboratory care, hopefully STD screenings and treatments and an on-site pharmacy that will offer free delivery to anyone in the area,” said Dawn Averill, associate director of growth and development for AHF.
Averill called the clinic a “one-stop shop.”
Atlanta has multiple agencies whose mission is combat HIV/AIDS, and Averill said that AHF’s new clinic would not dilute local treatment options but expand them.
“You can never have enough care, enough options,” Averill said.
Averill said the clinic’s location in Lithonia, which is east of Atlanta in Dekalb County, was chosen because it would allow AHF to expand HIV/AIDS services into an area where people who need care can find it.
“The percentage of people that are out of care is high,” Averill said. “We when did our research on Georgia, it was a very large number of individuals who had been documented but were not in care.”
The AHF will also bring a mobile testing unit when it opens its clinic that will service local communities.
“For a lot of people, it’s a transportation issue,” Averill said. “We try to break through their barriers to see what we can do. If those are your issues, we can fix that.
“We want to get out there, we want to find new people who are HIV positive and help them through the process,” Averill added.
Ga. among worst new HIV cases
Despite progress in treatment and early detection, Georgia still ranks among the worst states for new HIV cases.
Georgia was among the top states to report new HIV infections in 2009, according to the Centers for Disease Control & Prevention. Some 1,300 people are diagnosed each year in the Peach State, CDC numbers show.
Many of those diagnosed with the disease seek initial treatment, but fall through the cracks when it comes to continued care, Averill said.
“We want people to come in, get tested, we want to teach them how to be healthy, be sexually smart,” Averill added.
The new clinic will be a partnership with the Magic Johnson Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by the former NBA legend.
Johnson shocked the world in 1991 when he announced he was HIV positive. Since his announcement, he has become a fierce advocate of the struggle against HIV/AIDS.
“Magic Johnson is a hero and icon in the fight against AIDS, and we applaud him for the courage and leadership he has shown in this ongoing battle,” said AHF President Michael Weinstein at the World AIDS Day announcement.
Founded in 1987, AHF provides services to more than 130,000 people affected by HIV and AIDS in 22 countries annually. The foundation also has clinics in California, Florida, and Washington, D.C.