BY ANDREAS BUTLER
Outreach Community Care Network in Daytona Beach provides services for HIV, AIDS and hepatitis C patients.
The community-based organization, located at 240 N. Frederick Ave., held a World AIDS Day event on Dec. 1 that was open to the public.
“It is more about putting awareness out in the community. We made today a community event. We also are letting the community know that we are here. We are here for those who have been affected and defected. It’s very important to know your status,” said Tamika Crumiell, prevention specialist.
World AIDS Day is an annual worldwide event for people to unite in the fight against HIV and show their support for the people living with the disease as well as to commemorate those who have died.
The local event included free HIV testing and condoms along with plenty of free information and literature.
“We had 14 people get tested that day others came to the community event. The word got out and we’ve been having more people come and get tested since then. We consider the event a success,” said Dr. Vanessa Harvey-Lentz, executive director.
Presently, Community Outreach Community Care Network provides its clients with a full clinic with an infection disease doctor on hand. The infectious disease physician on site is Dr. Ronald Rusiecki.
The site also has a lab that draws blood for testing and a dispensing pharmacy. There also are case managers and a prevention specialist that goes out in the community.
“It’s important that the community know that we are a full service clinic with rapid testing and other services,” added Dr. Harvey-Lentz.
Soon the facility will be expanding its services. In January, the facility will add a new lab and more peer advocates are being hired to help counsel and provide services for patients.
Service at one site
By April, the network will have free sexual transmitted disease testing on site.
“They don’t have to wait to get seen or any treatment at our place. Here they can get it all in one place. Transportation to all the different locations for services were always an obstacle for many patients. Also, hepatitis C is curable now,” noted Harvey-Lentz.
Consolidating services is intended to be more beneficial to both patients and the community.
“It’s more accessible having everything on site, especially for those who don’t have transportation,” commented Caterina Evans, who works as a nurse at the facility.
History of service
Outreach Community Care Network was created in 1985 as a non-profit corporation in response to the HIV/AIDS epidemic.
Florida has the largest HIV/AIDS population in the southeastern United States and third highest in the nation. Florida is second in the country with women and pediatric (ages 13 and under) AIDS cases.
Outreach Community Care Network is funded through federal, state and local agencies and foundations as well as private donations.
Handling the HIV/AIDS crisis is all about knowing your status.
“There is still a negative stigma when there comes to HIV and AIDS, but it’s no longer the end of the world. It’s a life-living disease. There are so many medications now for treatment. Just know your status and be treated,” Crumiell stated.
Combating the stigma with the disease is another battle.
Crumiell said, “You must read. We have so much literature now about this. Also, here on this site we can answer so many questions. We have access to so much information. We also have HIV education classes.”
Outreach Community Care Network will participate in Daytona Beach’s Light Up Midtown Community Health Fair on Dec. 10 at Daisy Stocking Park, 550 Third Ave.
On Feb. 7, the network will present an event for National Black HIV/AIDS Day.
Outreach Community Care Network stresses prevention like all health organizations.
“You must use protection or absentness. Also, avoid drug use. People also contract it from using needles during drug abuse, “Crumiell added. Also, don’t share needles, use condoms. You just have to be smart about it. You just can’t assume. Get tested and know your status.”
For more information on Outreach Community Care Network and its services, call 386- 255-5569 or visit www.outreachinc.org.