Agencies Join Forces on HIV, Hep-C Testing Program

Sound Community Services and Alliance for Living have joined forces to o­ffer free weekly HIV and Hepatitis-C testing and education sessions at Sound’s New London headquarters. Sound Community Services is a multi-faceted agency serving individuals with behavioral health and substance abuse diseases. Alliance for Living (AFL) is the only HIV/AIDS service organization and resource center within Southeastern Connecticut. Trained AFL staff­ are now o­ffering HIV and Hepatitis-C testing and education from 8:30 am to noon on the first and third Wednesday of each month at Sound’s main office, 21 Montauk Ave., New London in the Medication Services Suite.

Evidence indicates that prevention and intervention programs for communicable conditions like HIV and Hepatitis-C can check the harm that infected individuals do to themselves and society as a whole. A 2010 report by the Institute for Medicine estimated that between three and five million people are living with chronic Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C infections, and that about 65-75%(respectively) of those infected are unaware of their condition.

“Because of the asymptomatic nature of chronic hepatitis B and hepatitis C, most people infected with HBV and HCV are not aware that they have been infected until they have symptoms of cirrhosis or a type of liver cancer, hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC), many years later,” the report notes. Because there is no vaccine for Hepatitis-C, prevention of the infection and early stage treatment are critical in reducing the incidence of cancer. The report also found that lack of public awareness, including on the part of health care and social service providers, creates a climate in which those at risk for contracting infection are not aware they are at risk and do not have access to preventive measures.

Among those at risk for contracting/ communicating HIV, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reports prevention strategies with e­ffectiveness rates of 90% and higher. About one in three people who inject drugs have Hepatitis C. About 1 in 10 new HIV diagnoses in the United States are attributed to injection drug use, according to the CDC. Testing and treatment save both lives and public health resources by offering those with addiction paths to recovery, the organizers said. “Together we have worked toward removing barriers and streamlining processes to improve access to services, and have developed a deeper understanding of stages of change and how trauma can impact the decisions people may make,” said Gino DeMaio, Sound’s chief executive officer.

“This is an opportunity to save lives,” said Kelly Thompson, CEO of Alliance for Living. “Keeping people alive allows them to make choices to change their paths and make strides towards recovery.” For more information, call Jason Hyatt at 860-941-7252.