Montgomery County starts up online support groups for HIV patients
Montgomery County is starting free, online support group sessions for residents with HIV next month.
The groups will start in April and will allow people with the immunodeficiency virus to gather in a safe setting and talk about any issues that matter to them.
Montgomery County is one of 57 counties in the United States that make up 50 percent of all new HIV infections, according to Melvin Cauthen, the county’s administrator for HIV and STI services.
“What we wanted to do was to create a safe space for people living with HIV in the county with COVID and MPX posing a threat,” Cauthen said. “If groups say they want to talk about new infections, dating with HIV, or housing and HIV, then those will be the topics of which we will work with them to develop.”
Anyone diagnosed with the disease living in the county can join the groups. Cauthen said the government will decide how many groups it will create depending on the level of interest.
As of the end of 2020, there were 3,544 people living in Montgomery County with HIV. In 2019, the county had 135 new diagnoses.
As a higher risk area, Montgomery County is mandated by the federal government program tasked to end the longstanding HIV epidemic to follow certain regulations. That includes increasing screening in the area, increasing awareness and educating people about the use of Pre-exposure prophylaxis, better known as PrEP. That drug decreases the chances of contracting HIV.
The support sessions are part of the federal program mandate.