SHD recognizes World AIDS Day 2021

VALDOSTA – As our nation continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important remember that others are battling through a different, less publicly discussed, pandemic. The Georgia Department of Public Health’s South Health District Infectious Disease Program wants to bring awareness to those fighting HIV and AIDS through their annual World AIDS Day luncheon.

World AIDS Day is a global health event recognized annually on December 1. The recognition offers an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for those living with HIV/AIDS and to commemorate those who have died.

This year, South Health District will host their World AIDS Day luncheon on Friday, December 3 from 11:30 a.m.-12:30 p.m. at the Turner Center of the Arts, 527 North Patterson Street, in Valdosta.

The event offers an opportunity for our community to safely unite in the fight against HIV while taking added precautions to protect themselves against COVID-19. This year’s event will be offered both in person and virtually, with live streaming options available.

This year’s guest speaker will be Dr. Jonathan Thurston.

“We hope this event will offer a way for individuals within our district to learn more about the less recognized pandemic of HIV/AIDS,” said Sharah Denton, prevention program manager with South Health District. “In public health, we know that education and prevention are crucial steps to preventing the spread of illness. We have spent the last two years reminding our communities how to prevent the spread of COVID-19. It is important that we remember there are other viruses within our district. We must make sure we are bringing awareness to those as well.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV today, and only 1 in 7 know it. In 2019, 36,801 people received an HIV diagnosis in the United States.  In the same year, African Americans accounted for 45 percent and Hispanic/Latinos accounted for 21.5 percent of all new HIV diagnoses. Young adults aged 20 to 29 are also especially affected by HIV, with infections rates near 30 percent.

All county health departments within the South Health District (Ben Hill, Berrien, Brooks, Cook, Echols, Irwin, Lanier, Lowndes, Tift and Turner) provide free HIV testing. Call your local health department to schedule an appointment. South Health District is now offering PrEP services at the Lowndes County Health Department and has a PrEP navigator onsite to provide assistance. PrEP is a pre-exposure prophylaxis that uses anti-HIV medications to keep HIV negative people who are at high risk for contracting HIV from becoming infected.

Seating it limited for the World AIDS Day Luncheon. To learn more or register to attend the World AIDS Day Luncheon, please visit