One cannot emphasize enough the importance of annual medical
checkups. It is recommended that people get tested for common
ailments such as hypertension, diabetes and cholesterol. For
sexually active people who may have multiple partners it is
imperative they should get tested for
sexually transmitted Infections and HIV annually.
One in eight people with HIV don’t know they have it. According
to the CDC, the epidemic of
HIV in Atlanta is compared to many third-world countries in
Africa. The CDC also recommends persons living in surrounding
metro Atlanta counties should get tested by a local health
provider annually. The fact that the average person lacks
knowledge about HIV, compounded with stigmas and disparities
creates the need for an infectious disease linkage coordinator.
LaShay Smith, a registered nurse by trade, is the infectious
disease linkage coordinator for Mercy Care. Part of Smith’s
responsibility is to coordinate and link patients with
continuous care and treatment. In addition to coordinating, she
has the task of educating individuals on how to
make healthy lifestyle changes if positively diagnosed
with HIV, “[patients] should eat healthy, exercise, get proper
rest get treated and stay in care.” She also reiterated the
importance of annual checkups and visits as essential to ensure
patients are taking all the precautions necessary to live a
Smith’s HIV conversation with rolling
out continues below.
Do you see a racial divide between the Black, White and
Latino community? Who is most at risk?
There appears to be a racial divide based on the clientele seen
here in the Early Intervention Clinic department. Majority of
the clients we see are Black and MSM or transgender.
Do you see any disparities among White and Black
There are significant disparities for the population that we
service from education, healthy choices for food to wage gaps
and lack of transportation.
The HIV conversation appears to have lost momentum; how
do we start the dialogue within our communities and with the
The conversation starts with prevention and raising awareness
regarding the importance of getting tested. This can be
accomplished through more outreach programs as well as case
management and social services. People need to realize
that testing positive is no longer a death sentence and that
with proper treatment; they can live a normal life.
Do you believe HIV can be eradicated?
I have faith that eventually it will be eradicated, but we as a
community and the pharmaceutical industry, have a great deal of
work to do to reach this point. For now, the primary focus is
to keep the clients virally suppressed by assuring that they
remain in care.