West Alabama AIDS Outreach, which has worked for 29 years to fight HIV/AIDS and serve those living with the disease, will soon have a new name: Five Horizons Health Services.
WAAO Executive Director Billy Kirkpatrick says the name change will become official in early February. Kirkpatrick says the new name better reflects all of the services the organization offers, which fall into five main areas.
Kirkpatrick also says the new name will help to remove any barriers the term "AIDS" may create for some people. He says there is still a stigma surrounding the disease.
"We want to make sure we're providing a place that's comfortable for our clients to come," Kirkpatrick said.
Kirkpatrick also wants the community to know even though the organization's name is changing, its commitment to fighting HIV and AIDS and serving those living with HIV and AIDS will not change.
"We are continuing full force with the services we have historically provided. But as a board and as a staff, we have identified several key areas that aren't being addressed in West Alabama, and we want to make sure we're addressing those, as well."
Kirkpatrick says those services include more outreach into the Hispanic community, Hepatitis C testing and also reaching people who are not HIV positive, but may be at high risk. For that group of people, the organization says providing pre-exposure prophylaxis
(PrEP) care is an important service they can provide. PrEP care involving taking HIV medicines to lower the risk of contracting HIV.
Kirkpatrick says the name change follows a national shift, where AIDS advocacy organizations are working to address changing healthcare needs and provide more services.
December 1 marks World AIDS Day. Kirkpatrick says his organization continues to see new cases of HIV and AIDS in West Alabama. He says new medications have kept HIV and AIDS from being a "death sentence," but many complications still come with the disease. With improvements in medical care, Kirkpatrick says a more casual attitude about the threat of the disease is also something his organization has to work against.
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