The Coastal Health District of Georgia serves the counties of Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long & McIntosh

Effingham News


HIV Director Susan Alt Receives Lifetime Achievement and Medical Provider of the Year Awards

Susan Alt, Coastal Health District HIV Director, was recently honored for 35 years of compassion and care for persons living with HIV and AIDS in coastal Georgia. Alt received the Lifetime Achievement Award and the Medical Provider of the Year Award from the Georgia Department of Public Health’s Office of HIV/AIDS.

Coastal Health District HIV Director Susan Alt

“Susan’s approach to all individuals impacted by HIV is marked by empathy, compassion and the highest quality standards possible,” said Georgia’s HIV Prevention Manager Brooke Mootry as she presented the Lifetime Achievement Award. “Her commitment to her work and to the community has been unwavering from day one.”

Alt joined the Chatham County Health Department’s HIV Program in the early days of the HIV epidemic. Since then, the program has grown from just 40 patients to more than 1,470 active patients in 8 counties, with Alt at the helm. The Coastal Health District was the first public health district in the state of Georgia to conduct HIV clinical trials and continues to pursue new and better ways to treat and prevent HIV.

But for Alt, it’s not about the disease – it’s about the people. “Susan is deeply devoted to making sure those living with HIV are treated not only medically but also with respect and compassion,” said Georgia’s HIV Care Manager Marisol Cruz as she presented the Medical Provider of the Year Award. This award is for medical providers (including nurses, physicians and pharmacists) who provide exceptional HIV/AIDS healthcare.

The Coastal Health District’s HIV Program provides comprehensive outpatient HIV care and case management to persons with HIV/AIDS. Every county health department provides free, walk-in HIV testing, and the Coastal Health District has 3 HIV Program centers for expanded services in Savannah, Brunswick and Hinesville. Get more information on our HIV Program page.

National HIV Testing Day Events

The Coastal Health District HIV Prevention Program will hold free HIV testing events on June 27 in observance of National HIV Testing Day. Testing will take place from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. at the following locations:

Walgreens, 2109 E. Victory Drive, Savannah
Walgreens, 11509 Abercorn St., Savannah
Walgreens, 4210 Augusta Rd., Garden City
Walgreens, 4575 Altama Avenue, Brunswick

Testing is confidential and results will be available in one minute. A follow-up visit will be scheduled for anyone who test positive and counseling will be made available to those individuals. In addition to free HI testing, there will be staff available to discuss HIV prevention options such as PrEP, the daily pill t prevent HIV, and treatment as prevention. Gift cards and door prizes will also be given out at the testing events.

HIV testing is recommended as part of routine health care, yet many Americans are not being tested as often as advised. Whether living with HIV or not, there are more options than ever to stay healthy. The first step is knowing your status and getting tested for HIV.  National HIV Testing Day is an opportunity to normalize HIV testing and encourage people to   make it part of routine health care.

Our testing events are part of a nationwide activation in 245 cities with Walgreens, Greater Than AIDS, health departments, and local organizations to normalize HIV testing and encourage people to make it part of routine health care.

The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimates around 1.2 million people in the United States are living with HIV, and one in eight people don’t know they have it. National HIV Testing Week is an opportunity to raise awareness, encourage people to get the facts, tested, get involved, and get linked to care and treatment services.

As a reminder, HIV testing is free at all health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties and available Monday through Friday during regular health department hours of operation.

Anyone with questions about testing can call Diane DeVore at (912) 644-5828 or e-mail Diane.Devore@dph.ga.gov.

Georgia WIC Comment Survey

Let us know what you think about WIC! We want to make the program better but we need your help. Please go to wic.ga.gov to give us your feedback. The survey will be open through June 30.

Ladies Who PrEP Summit Scheduled for April 13

The Georgia Department of Public Health Office of HIV/AIDS, Sister Love, Inc., and the Coastal Health District will host the “Ladies Who PrEP Summit” in Savannah on April 13 at the Savannah Marriott Riverfront.

WHO: The Georgia Department of Public Health Office of HIV/AIDS, Sister Love, Inc., and the Coastal Health District

WHAT: Ladies Who PrEP Summit

WHEN: 10 a.m. – 3 p.m., Saturday, April 13

WHERE: Savannah Marriott Riverfront, 100 General McIntosh Blvd., Savannah

WHY: Attendees will be empowered to take control of their sexual health as they discuss women’s sexual health issues and learn about Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis (PrEP) as an HIV prevention option. The day will be a great blend of education and fun as attendees will enjoy food, celebrity guest panels, music, and interactive skill building activities from health experts.

This event is free and open to the public but registration is required:
https://ladieswhoprepsavannah.eventbrite.com

Click here for more information about PrEP.

It’s Not Too Late to Get a Flu Shot

Although we’re heading into spring, the flu is still circulating widely in Georgia. Getting vaccinated is the best protection against the flu and it’s not too late to get a flu shot. Health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties still have flu vaccine available.

“The flu is out there and as long as the flu virus is circulating, it’s never too late to vaccinate,” said Lawton Davis, M.D., district health director for the Coastal Health District. “Flu season can run as late as May.”

Influenza can be a serious disease that leads to hospitalization and sometimes death. Regardless of race, age, gender or ethnicity, anyone can get sick from the flu. Those especially at risk are adults 65 years of age and older, children younger than 5, pregnant women, people with certain chronic diseases such as asthma, diabetes, heart disease or other long-term medical conditions. The CDC recommends everyone 6 months and older receive a flu vaccine. While getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, there are other things we can all do every day to prevent getting or spreading the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Try to cough or sneeze into the corner of your elbow and not your hand or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

Coastal Health District Team Members Named Georgia Medical Society Health Care Heroes

Debbie Hagins, M.D., Jonathan Gibson, and Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn. Not pictured, Cristina Gibson.

The Georgia Medical Society (GMS) recently named the 2018 Health Care Heroes and two Coastal Health District team members were among those recognized. Debbie Hagins, M.D., was presented the Health Care Innovation Award, and Cristina Gibson – along with her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn – was presented the Community Outreach Award. A total of six awards are given annually in recognition of contributions made by individuals and organizations that “have helped enrich the length, the joy, and the comfort of the lives of the citizens.”

Health Care Innovation Award
The GMS Health Care Innovation Award was given to Debbie Hagins, M.D., medical director and principal investigator for the Coastal Health District CARE Centers which provide comprehensive outpatient primary care (including nutritional services and oral health) and case management to persons with HIV/AIDS. The Coastal Health District Ryan White HIV program serves an eight-county geographic region and has the highest HIV incidence outside of the metro Atlanta area.

Twelve years ago, Dr. Hagins helped spearhead the effort to bring HIV clinical trials to the Coastal Health District. The trials provide medication for individuals who otherwise may have never had access to research and that research will help determine what drugs will work best in treating HIV. Since 2006, she has served as Principal Investigator for 46 trials related to HIV care with a special focus on enrolling and maintaining two groups that have been historically overlooked or excluded: minority and female patients.

Dr. Hagins’ hard work in the area of clinical trials has garnered local, state, and national attention bringing to light the important efforts being put forward in public health regarding HIV medication research and treatment. Her exceptional performance in providing comprehensive primary care to HIV patients and as Principal Investigator for numerous clinical trials has resulted in her participation as a key note speaker at several national meetings and she recently shared her expertise for an article in MD Magazine. She has co-authored many publications, abstracts and posters (several on the international stage).

Dr. Hagins is highly respected in her field and is an excellent representative for public health and a strong advocate for providing comprehensive health care to underserved populations, especially those living with HIV. She achieved and has maintained certification as an HIV Specialist from the American Academy of HIV Medicine and was named a Fellow of the Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research (FAPCR). The FAPCR designation is reserved for Academy of Physicians of Clinical Research members who have shown significant commitment to, and achievement in, clinical research.

Community Outreach Award
The GMS Community Outreach Award was given to Coastal Health District Chronic Disease Prevention Director, Cristina Gibson, her son Jonathan and his classmate, Ilya Snyder-Shvahbeyn.  As a dedicated public health employee and head of the Chronic Disease Prevention program for our eight-county health district, Cristina is very attuned to the public health-related issues facing our citizens – particularly when it comes to health disparities – and has always looked for ways to help narrow the gap. A couple of years ago when Cristina’s son Jonathan and his classmate Ilya were trying to come up with a community outreach event as a class assignment, the three brainstormed and created Everybody Eats Fresh FREE Fridays (E2F3).

E2F3 is a produce- and bread-only distribution program that provides access to healthy foods to residents in need, primarily on Savannah’s southside. The distribution takes place in a local church parking lot which gives it somewhat of a farmers market feel. To make this happen, Cristina, Jonathan, and Ilya partnered with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank to relieve the Food Bank of healthy foods that might otherwise be thrown out. Through its partnership with America’s Second Harvest Food Bank, E2F3 has been able to distribute an average of 12 tons of produce each year – tons of produce that would have otherwise been thrown away because of spoilage. During each event E2F3 is serving an average of 70 families and about 283 individuals (a majority of these being children and seniors).

E2F3 serves those who are in the middle – they don’t quite qualify for government assistance but their income may not be enough to cover all necessities and often, food is an easier sacrifice than rent. E2F3 has been so successful that three additional sites are now running in the Savannah area. With the addition of the partner sites, E2F3 is able to provide even more Savannahians with healthy food that may give them a reprieve from worrying about where their next meals are coming from and allow them to redirect their dollars towards paying an electricity bill or paying down a medical bill.

 

Free HIV Testing Events Scheduled for World AIDS Day (WAD)

The Coastal Health District HIV Prevention Program will offer two free HIV testing events on Saturday, December 1 in observance of World AIDS Day. Both events will take place from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. at these locations:

  • Walgreens, 2109 E. Victory Drive, Savannah
  • Walgreens, 4210 Augusta Road, Garden City

Testing is completely confidential and results will be available in one minute. A follow-up visit will be scheduled for anyone who tests positive and counseling will be made available to those individuals. The theme of this year’s World AIDS Day is “Know Your Status.”

December 1 marks the 30th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Launched in 1988, the annual observance highlights worldwide efforts to combat HIV/AIDS. World AIDS Day is also an occasion to show support for those living with HIV and to remember those who have died from the infection.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimate more than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV today, and only 1 in 7 know it. Young people are the most likely to be unaware of their infection. Among people aged 13-24 with HIV, an estimated 51% don’t know it.

Georgia leads the United States in HIV rates for adults and adolescents according to a report by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention. Coastal Health District HIV/AIDS program currently serves 1,398 clients living with HIV/AIDS throughout the eight-county district. As a reminder, HIV testing is free at all health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties and available Monday through Friday during regular health department hours of operation.

Anyone with questions about testing can call Diane DeVore at (912) 644-5828 or e-mail Diane.Devore@dph.ga.gov.

Learn more about HIV Prevention and how you can reduce risk.

HIV Medical Director Featured in MD Magazine

Medical Director and Principal Investigator for Coastal Health District’s HIV CARE clinics, Debbie P Hagins, MD, FAPCR, AAHIVS, recently lent her expertise to MD Magazine. Read the article here: First Efficacy Trials on Switch to RPV/FTC/TAF for HIV Yield Positive Results

Flu Shots Start Sept. 24; Drive-thru/Walk-in Clinics Announced

Health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, and McIntosh counties will begin offering flu vaccine on Monday, September 24. Regular flu shots are $29 and high-dose flu shots – made especially to protect those 65 and older – are $55. Cash, checks, credit cards, most major insurances, Medicaid, and Medicare will be accepted.

To date, the following drive-through flu vaccination clinics have been scheduled:

Camden County
10 a.m. – 2 p.m.
Saturday, October 13
Lowe’s
1410 East Boone Ave., Kingsland

Glynn County
8 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Thursday, October 18
Glynn County Health Department
2747 Fourth Street, Brunswick

McIntosh County
9 a.m. – 6 p.m.
Tuesday, October 30
McIntosh County Health Department
1335 GA Hwy. 57, Townsend

To date, the following walk-in flu vaccination clinics have been scheduled:

Long County
8 a.m. – 4  p.m.
Tuesday, October 30
584 N. Macon Street, Ludowici

The flu can cause mild to severe illness and getting the flu vaccine is the best way to protect yourself, your family, and your community from the virus. Every flu season is different and we never know how bad a flu season is going to be or how long it’s going to last which is why it is important for everyone six months of age and older get the flu vaccine every year.

Last year’s flu season was particularly severe with widespread flu activity around the state of Georgia and throughout the country. Generally speaking, flu season starts in October and peaks around January or February but it’s not too early to get the flu vaccine. The duration of flu seasons varies but last year’s season lasted well into the Spring.

It takes about two weeks after getting a flu shot for the vaccine to provide the body protection against the flu. While getting the flu vaccine is the best way to prevent the flu, there are other things we can all do every day to prevent getting or spreading the flu:

  • Avoid close contact with sick people.
  • If you get sick with flu-like illness, stay home for at least 24 hours after the fever is gone except to get medical care or for other necessities. The fever should be gone without the use of a fever-reducing medicine.
  • While sick, limit contact with others as much as possible to keep from infecting them.
  • Try to cough or sneeze into the corner of your elbow and not your hand or cover your nose and mouth with a tissue when you cough or sneeze. Throw the tissue in the trash after you use it.
  • Wash your hands with soap and water. If soap and water are not available, use an alcohol-based hand rub.
  • Avoid touching your eyes, nose, and mouth. Germs spread this way.
  • Clean and disinfect surfaces and objects that may be contaminated with germs like the flu.

For more information or to download and fill out the consent form ahead of time, go to gachd.org/flu.

Nat’l Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day FREE HIV Testing

The conversation about HIV is changing. #TalkUndetectable this National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD), Thursday, September 27, and  come in for FREE HIV testing at health departments in Bryan, Camden, Chatham, Effingham, Glynn, Liberty, Long, & McIntosh counties. National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (NGMHAAD) is observed each year on September 27 to direct attention to the continuing and disproportionate impact of HIV and AIDS on gay and bisexual men in the United States. Get more info. on at http://bit.ly/2xcigOa.