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Addressing the changing epidemic of HIV in Charlotte, North Carolina: Community mobilization and advocacy in progress

Donna E. Smith, MSPH1, Michael P. Kennedy, MGA, MPH, CHES2, and Susan Long-Marin, DVM, MPH1. (1) Epidemiology Program, Mecklenburg County Health Department, 249 Billingsley Road, Charlotte, NC 28211, 704-336-6425, Donna.E.Smith@carolinas.org, (2) Administration, Mecklenburg County Health Department, 249 Billingsley Road, Charlotte, NC 28211-1097

The epidemiology of HIV is changing, demanding constant vigilance by public health officials, innovative approaches in prevention and changes in public policy to better address the needs of persons living with HIV. A recent study in North Carolina documented an increase of HIV infection among young, African American college-age students. National and state surveillance of the epidemic point to increases among men who have sex with men and heterosexual contact. As Charlotte, NC entered its third consecutive year of increased HIV disease reporting in 2003, a call for action was issued among public health officials and community stakeholders. In the summer of 2003, a dedicated group of advocates, healthcare providers and health department spokespersons approached the Board of County Commissioners (BOCC) to advocate for public policy changes. In response to these public hearings, the BOCC charged a group of knowledgeable citizens and providers, The Mecklenburg HIV Disease Taskforce, with examining issues and proposing recommendations to address increasing HIV cases in the county. The Taskforce utilized national and state strategic plans aimed at reducing barriers to HIV diagnosis and increasing service delivery in order to develop strategies that would address the county's specific needs. Specific recommendations include increased funding to improve existing prevention and service infrastructure and the formation of a permanent HIV Council to respond to changes in the epidemic. Understanding this process of community mobilization and strategic planning provides a framework for communities facing similar challenges in addressing HIV prevention and access to care.

Learning Objectives: At the conclusion of the session, participants will be able to

Keywords: Health Advocacy, HIV/AIDS

Presenting author's disclosure statement:
I do not have any significant financial interest/arrangement or affiliation with any organization/institution whose products or services are being discussed in this session.

HIV/AIDS Community Planning, Programming, and Interventions

The 132nd Annual Meeting (November 6-10, 2004) of APHA