Early detection, head-on approach to HIV/AIDS diagnosis could save patients lives

GREENVILLE, N.C. (WNCT) – On World AIDS Day, doctors in the East are working to ensure that patients have the best access to care to stop the spread of the disease. A new grant is helping them do just that. One HIV patient, diagnosed in the early 90s, says this approach is much different from what she experienced when she learned she was in for the fight of her life.

“He didn’t know how to tell me that I had HIV,” says Esther Ross. “When the results came back, what he did was he left me in a room, passed me a sheet of paper on the desk and left. That’s when I saw it said HIV on it and it said positive. I sat in that room for about an hour, just crying. Thinking my life was over.”

That diagnosis was in 1993. Esther Ross has been living with HIV for 23 years. She says after facing the initial devastation, she worked to figure out where to go next.

“Learning about HIV was the most powerful thing for me,” says Ross.

After taking on HIV, Ross decided to council others on how to live with the virus. Despite treatments that suppress transmission, HIV/AIDS is still spreading in the Tar Heel State.

“I think it’s fair to say it is an epidemic in Eastern North Carolina,” says Dr. Nada Fadul with ECU Department of Internal Medicine.

This epidemic is attributed to lack of information and undiagnosed cases.

“It’s general estimated that about 13 to 15 percent of patients living with HIV do not know they are infected,” says Fadul. “So these patients that are infected but don’t know they’re infected are spreading the disease around without knowing.”

In order to stop the virus from spreading, Ross says people must educate themselves and fight off fear. By taking a head-on approach, Ross says you can be in control.

“This is no longer a life threatening disease so the sooner you find out that you’re HIV positive, we put you on treatment and you can live as long as you want,” says Ross.

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