By Clinton Centry
NCCU Staff Writer
the Durham VOICE
Wellness City, a unique haven in Durham for individuals struggling with mental health and substance abuse issues, lived up to its motto of being a place for the “creation of opportunities and environments that empower people to recover, to succeed in accomplishing their goals, and to reconnect with themselves, others, and the meaning and purpose in life” on Nov. 17 with its latest forum on STDs and HIV.
Kara McGee, a physician’s assistant with Duke University Healthcare gave a graphic presentation on the symptoms, causes and treatments of the various sexually transmitted diseases such as Chlamydia, Gonorrhea, Syphilis, as well as HIV. The graphic photos were designed to help attendees recognizes signs of infection.
Citizens who attended may not have access to adequate healthcare or professional medical advice, so each person was given the opportunity to ask questions to better understand STD transmission and prevention.
“I try to get out into the community to see where the need is, not just physically but mentally as well,” said Kathy Ramadanovic, clinical trials assistant for Duke University Healthcare who assisted McGee.
Attendees were engaged with the topic and found many points surprising. They were also surprised by some attendee’s questions.
One female, for example, had heard that bleach was the cure for HIV and even explained how to rid the blood of the virus. McGee confirmed the citizen’s statement but also explained the impossibility and impracticality of it.
“There is not yet a way to perform such a transfusion, in withdrawing all the bad blood, and then replacing it with clean blood,” stated McGee.
Had they not attended the forum, citizens may not have been informed of the 1.2 million people in the United States living with HIV and the 250,000 that remain unaware of their own status.
Immediately following the forum, HIV and STD testing was provided by the Aids Alliance Services Carolina. An adjoining room served as a private testing area, with Danielle Myers readily standing by with her equipment. She conversed with citizens easily as she drew their blood.
One woman told Myers that she had decided to be tested because, “It is a familiar environment and that’s why I felt comfortable getting tested.”
Myers handed her business card with contact information for each person to call in for their results the following week.
Wellness City is operated by peer support specialists who at some point have had to combat and achieve wellness in their own lives.
The leaders undergo specialist training and are certified by N.C. Division of Mental Health, Developmental Disabilities and Substance Abuse Services.
The parent organization, Arizona-based META Services, became Recovery Innovations in 2006 after a 1981 class action lawsuit in Arizona. The state was found guilty of failing to provide adequate mental health treatment to the chronically mentally ill population.
New non-profit companies have been created in other states since META’s beginnings in the early 90s and Wellness City is an extension of these services.
Durham’s Wellness City is located at 401 East Lakewood Ave, Suite E1-A
Durham, NC 27707 and they can be reached at 919-687-4041.