ALBERTVILLE, AL (WAFF) - Thrive Alabama opened a new office in Albertville for HIV and AIDS testing.
Mark Fuqua is a former Southern Baptist Minister and became HIV positive in 2004.
"You fast forward from 2004 to 2009 or late 2008 and I went into the hospital because I had not taken my medication," said Fuqua. "I had blown through a couple of regimens and not taken care of myself because there is a lot of stigma and self-shame that comes along with the disease and it sounds so crazy but so many of us go through this period where we almost don't care if we live or die."
Death can happen when the blood tests show specific numbers.
"And my viral load was 900 and 74,000 and I had a CD 4 count of seven," said Fuqua. "So that was full blown AIDS. I had several opportunistic disease including PCP pneumonia twice, and esophageal candida, couple of other things, very painful, very debilitating. And in 2009, I got serious about my care."
When he moved to North Alabama from Texas, he had major health concerns.
"I made one phone call to Thrive Alabama and they took care of everything," said Fuqua. "I am now a therapist for Free to Be. You know I went back and got my master's degree in social work and became a full-time therapist here and I'm contributing to society again."
Many people think of outreach programs like this one being strictly clinical but they are so much more. In fact, they have a lot of services available to people in the community.
Chief Executive Officer of Thrive Alabama Mary Elizabeth Marr said AIDS or HIV is no longer a "death sentence" but it must be managed.
"The services we can provide are comprehensive medical care, counseling and testing, free counseling and testing for HIV. At some point, we will also add counseling and testing for other sexually transmitted diseases. We can provide transportation and translation services," said Marr.
All of the staff is bilingual.
They also provide substance abuse, prevention services, even psychiatric care. Marr wants people to come in and be tested and take advantage of all the resources.
For more information on Thrive Alabama, click here.
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