Caring for Those Often Pushed Away by our Community
Throughout the story of the life of Jesus, we are reminded that we are expected, as Followers, to care for the sick; to reach out to the unloved and the untouchable; to go places where we might not be expected to go. 2018 will another year where we are challenged to love our neighbor.
A Successful Ending to 2017
Two Thousand Seventeen ended with a bang for us, having worked hard to put several happenings in place as part of a busy six-week stretch. There are many, many volunteers, partner agencies, and sponsors that stepped forward to make all of this possible. Thank you, thank you!
November – Holiday Hope Bucket Campaign at Central Baptist
Nov. 16 – Annual Thanksgiving Banquet / Central Baptist
Nov. 20 – Thanksgiving Basket Distribution (Baskets courtesy of Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church)
Nov. 26 – Hope Bucket Dedication in Morning Worship at Central
Dec. 1 – World AIDS Day – testing at Pellissippi State Main Campus
Dec. 1 – World AIDS Day Commemoration Event at Rothchild’s
Dec. 2 – FaithWalk and Al Ichiki 5K in Downtown Knoxville
Dec. 7 – Hope Center Christmas at Cedar Springs Presbyterian Church
Dec.12 – Christmas Box Distribution
Again this year we will spearhead HIV and Hepatitis C testing at the local RAM (Remote Area Medical) Clinic that will run for 4 days, January 31- Feb. 4 at Chilhowee Park in Knoxville. We will have a team in place all day for each of these clinic dates.
U=U Undetectable = Uninfectious
This moniker, used now for over a year, describes one of the most groundbreaking pieces of HIV research in the 30 plus years of this epidemic. This research describes the impact of successful HIV treatment (Antiretroviral Therapy or ART) on the ability of an HIV infected person to pass along the virus to another person. Beginning with the Swiss Statement in 2008 and culminating with the “Dear Colleague” letter from the CDC in 2017, evidence has mounted that successful HIV treatment (undetectable) prevents sexual transmission of HIV (uninfectious or untransmittable). The CDC statement reads, in part, “When ART results in viral suppression, defined as less than 200 copies/ml or undetectable levels, it prevents sexual HIV transmission.”
We believe this understanding is central to ending the HIV epidemic and it means that every person who has HIV needs to be identified and connected to medical care.
HIV Rates are Declining!
Overall, annual HIV infections declined 18 percent from 2008 to 2014. Incidence fell sharply among heterosexuals (36%) and people who inject drugs (56%). Several states and Washington, D.C. made substantial, statistically significant, progress in decreasing annual HIV infections. Good News!
Relationship with OMH
Wayne has been involved with the OMH (Office of Minority Health Resource Center, U.S. Department of Health and Human Services) to help present webinars to a national audience on a variety of topics related to health and wellness. In October Wayne was part of a panel convened to take a look at “The Role of Faith Leaders and the Health of their Communities.”
Wayne is working with OMH to present two webinars in 2018.
Faith-Based Community HIV Initiatives Serving Women. This webinar will be presented in March, 2018 in conjunction with National Women and Girls HIV Awareness Day.
Community Efforts: Responding to Youth Substance Misuse. This webinar will be presented in September 2018 in recognition of Heroin and Opioid Awareness Week
Responding to the Opioid Crisis
In 2011, recognizing the uptick in Hepatitis C infections, and understanding the relationships between injection drug use, HIV, and Hepatitis C (HCV), Samaritan Ministry began to listen and learn, making the necessary changes in our activities to meet the changing times.
We always want to be poised to meet the challenges in our communities. As Tennessee has made the bold moves necessary to protect our community health, Samaritan Ministry has been engaged with The Tennessee Department of Health and other community partners.
We know that the U.S. is in the midst of an opioid overdose crisis and that 33,000 Americans were killed due to overdose in 2015, a 4-fold increase since 1999. Many people expect this number to be doubled as numbers are gathered for 2017.
Times are changing in Tennessee and Samaritan Ministry is right in the middle of these changing needs.
The timeline for events that brought Samaritan Ministry into the opioid abuse arena began with an outbreak of HIV in Indiana in 2015. This outbreak, with over 200 new HIV infections, took place in rural Scott County, Indiana, in a population heavily involved in intravenous opioid use. This outbreak, unprecedented in America, raised public health awareness that led to a national vulnerability assessment on the likelihood of a similar outbreak in other U.S. counties. Tennessee contains 42 of the 220 most vulnerable counties, many of them in East Tennessee. This was followed by a public health advisory and other initiatives in Tennessee to address this crisis.
Most recently, the Tennessee Legislature passed (and Governor Haslam signed) a bill to allow syringe exchange programs in an effort to thwart escalating Hepatitis C rates and to proactively work to prevent an HIV outbreak in our state.
Samaritan Ministry has been in the forefront of these developments and is a partner with two East Tennessee non-profits that are poised to begin Syringe Exchange programs in 2018. Here again, we are helping to fill in the missing pieces to make these programs a reality.
You can see a TIMELINE of these events an initiatives HERE.