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Patricia E. Parsons, MPH manager, infectious disease services (Photo credit: Kelli Kramer)

Mercy Care is nestled just east of downtown Atlanta in a
mixed-income community known as Ashley Auburn Pointe, which is
located on the fringes of the Sweet Auburn neighborhood. Since
the doors opened in 1985, Mercy Care Atlanta has served the
community in various capacities. Besides their ability to
provide health care for individual and family needs, they also
treat many infectious
diseases
such as
HIV.

Infectious disease manager Patricia Parsons is one of many
individuals who ensure Mercy Care provides needed services to
all patients. Parsons oversees many deliverables regarding HIV
prevention such as program budgets, she also supports agency
goals as well as maintains community partnerships. Parsons
feels by working with Mercy Care, she is “living a driven and
purposeful life by helping others that are less fortunate.”

Parsons took the time to talk with rolling
out
 about the impact of
HIV on the Atlanta community
along with some of the
challenges Mercy Care faces as they strive to eradicate HIV.

In the fight to eradicate HIV, what are three
challenges you or your organization have faced?

Mercy Care has challenges linking clients to care for those who
may not be ready to initiate treatment and those who are in
denial about their diagnosis, clients that are lost to
follow-up and remaining in care and our no-show rate for those
who do not show up for their scheduled appointments.

Do you think HIV awareness has lost its
effectiveness?

HIV health promotion and awareness can never lose its
effectiveness if we are pro-active in our messaging; know how
relevant the information is and who we are targeting is
important.

Please explain why not.

We must find innovative ways to reach individuals who are at
high-risk and those who are infected with the virus. How we
educate and implement awareness is something we can never give
up on! This isn’t any time for us to be silent
— protecting ourselves is the key to decreasing health
outcomes. Know your status by getting tested!

How has HIV prevention affected the African American
community in the city of Atlanta, and Fulton and DeKalb
counties, has there been an increased effort to inform the
community?

In the metro Atlanta counties, there are AIDS service
organizations and community-based organizations that primarily
service the African American community across the board.
Testing is being done, behavioral interventions are
implemented, and individuals are being educated and referred
for PreP, along with linking clients into care. At Mercy Care,
we have an integrated model of care, so clients can be seen
here for various reasons.
Our Early Intervention Clinic
focuses on integration and
delivery of behavioral health and substance abuse services for
those living with HIV. In the last two years, Mercy Care has
placed ads on MARTA to help inform the community of our
services, which has resulted in increased outcomes of
testing.  

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