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CDC HIV/AIDS/Viral Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update
HIV/AIDS Group to Raise Money and Its Profile
Debbie Gilbert
October 27, 2003
Gainesville Times (10.22.03) - Monday, October 27, 2003

The North Georgia AIDS Alliance, formed several years ago, has recently taken steps to raise its public profile. A $50,002 North Georgia Community Foundation grant enabled the group to hire Kathleen Edwards as its first executive director and to move into new headquarters.

The group will hold its biggest fundraiser, a $60-per-person gala, on Nov. 20. "Atlanta doesn't have a corner on the [fundraising] market," said Matt Adams, president of the Gainesville, Ga.-based alliance. "I think there are people in this area willing to get involved, but they haven't been approached." Edwards said the organization hopes to raise $100,000 by August 2004. The alliance has already set up a support group; plans underway include a counseling program, a speaker's bureau, food pantry, transportation network and limited financial assistance to HIV/AIDS patients.

The organization's goal is "to be able to follow patients every step of the way, from HIV testing through hospice care," Edwards said. "And we'd like to have a large van or RV," she added, "to use as a mobile AIDS center, to reach the other 12 counties that we serve." She said the stigma surrounding HIV/AIDS creates a minor fundraising challenge, but many "silent" partners contribute without having their names publicized.

Robin Hale, a local actor and theatrical director diagnosed with HIV 12 years ago, believes the support group is one of the alliance's most valuable services. "A buddy system is badly needed in this area," he said. He also advocates more educational outreach, since young people have become nonchalant about unprotected sex, mistakenly believing AIDS is no big deal because antiretrovirals are now available.

"One thing I want to get across is that these drugs are extremely toxic," Hale said. "The side effects are sometimes worse than the disease itself."