Springfield Imani Ministry, Inc. offered the chance for people to dig out of the sand and face some issues, and 15 Thomson residents seized the opportunity Saturday at the HIV-Fest. The festival, held at the Thomson Boys and Girls Club, offered entertainment and prizes along with free HIV testing and education.
"This is a first for this area where people usually put their heads in the sand," said Nettie Butler, HIV program manager. "Because of the stigma that goes with HIV, people just don't want to deal with it."
Sandra Wimberly (right), public health educator for the Richmond County Health Department, and Avis Smiley, infectious diseases educator for the Medical College of Georgia, demonstrate how they administer an HIV test.
Sandra Wimberly, public health educator for the Richmond County Health Department, and Avis Smiley, infectious diseases educator for the Medical College of Georgia administered 15 mouth swab tests.
"I applaud the Thomson area for the great turn out," Ms. Wimberly said.
The dance team and the step team from Springfield Baptist Church provided entertainment for the crowd of approximately 15 adults and 60 children and teens. Michael Thomas, coach at Thomson High School, gave basketballs to everyone tested.
"Everyone that got one was very appreciative," Ms. Wimberly said.
Ms. Butler said Springfield Imani Ministry, Inc. uses grants to assist HIV positive individuals pay their utility bills. The ministry also conducts educational workshops on HIV prevention. She hopes to make the HIV-Fest an annual event in Thomson.
Currently, anyone wishing to be tested for HIV should contact their local health department. Ms. Wimberly said the Georgia Department of Human Resources welcomes any organization in the McDuffie County area that would be willing to act as a host for a test site. To volunteer an organization, call Ms. Wimberly at (706) 667-4342.