HIV/AIDS clinic gets more good news

For Rock Hill's Catawba Care Coalition, an already promising start to 2008 has gotten even better.

The clinic, which serves people living with HIV and AIDS, was awarded $65,000 in grants to help keep pace with growing medical and outreach costs. It's another reason for good feelings at Catawba Care's bustling but cramped offices on Camden Avenue, where staffers are already upbeat after a surprise land deal late last year.

A developer stunned the agency in December with a donation of 1.6 acres of vacant land near Piedmont Medical Center. The site is viewed as ideal for a new, state-of-the-art facility that could serve as a model for HIV/AIDS care in South Carolina.

In the meantime, money awarded by the National AIDS Fund will help meet current needs at the growing operation, Executive Director Anita Case said. The first $50,000 is slated for individuals and families already affected by HIV/AIDS. The other $15,000 goes toward prevention education, outreach and HIV testing services.

In York County and around the country, demand is growing for HIV/AIDS services because patients are living longer and, as a result, requiring more medical care. That's a particular concern in the South, experts say.

"For years and years, the South has been the area of the country with the most growth in the population of HIV patients," said Dr. Craig Charles, an infectious disease specialist based in Rock Hill.

The number of people ages 50 and older living with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, increased 77 percent between 2001 and 2005, according to the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. At Catawba Care's Christopher Clinic on Camden Avenue, 408 patients were treated last year -- up from 379 in 2006.

Board members leave open the possibility of selling or simply holding onto the property, valued at $400,000. Whatever happens, members believe the land will provide a stature that nonprofits need to win over otherwise reluctant donors.

Bill Hargrove and David Lee, the developers who donated the land, have no particular connection to AIDS, but Hargrove said they welcomed the opportunity to meet a need.

The Catawba Care Coalition is a nonprofit, United Way organization that offers medical care, support and prevention services for people who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS in York, Chester and Lancaster counties. It oversees a budget of just under $1.5 million.