By Susan Shinn

Since the Rosedale Infectious Disease clinic opened in Huntersville in 2006, the nine-person staff lead by Dr. Frederick Cruickshank has become an important advocate for HIV and AIDS patients locally.

“We’re kind of a unique situation,” said Dale Pierce, practice manager. “We’re not a free clinic. We’re not a hospital. We serve bankers, business people and attorneys. It’s not a gay disease anymore.”

Pierce, 39, has worked in the field since he was diagnosed as HIV-positive a dozen years ago. He began working at a different Huntersville HIV clinic.
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“We wanted to stay in Huntersville,” Pierce explains. “The location is ideal. The waiting room is more like a living room. You are not treated like a number, you’re treated like an individual.”

The clinic treats numerous infectious diseases, but HIV makes up about 75 percent of its 1,700 cases.

“It’s part of their life,” Pierce said of HIV patients. “But it doesn’t define them.”

Rosedale is at the forefront of HIV research, participating in some 10 to 15 clinical trials.

“HIV is not going to kill you,” Pierce explains. “What kills you is everything else that happens to your immune system.”

They’re also leading the charge locally to help care for those struggling to afford the expensive medications while keeping food in their pantries. Some HIV medications can cost up to $2,000 for a 30-day supply, Pierce said.

That’s why earlier this month, Pierce and the staff organized “An Evening of Hope and Inspiration” to help stock the shelves of the clinic’s Jeanne White-Ginder Food Pantry. White-Ginder, who was the keynote speaker at the event, moved to the front of the AIDS research movement after her then 12-year-old son Ryan White contracted HIV in 1984 after receiving a blood transfusion. He died six years later.

The food bank opened in May 2008, supported solely by private donations.

“We just want to help people get a bag of groceries if they need it,” Pierce said. “Right now, the shelves are literally bare. This really stinks.”
Rosedale has done smaller fundraisers in the past, but Pierce, a gospel music lover, decided to combine music with the help of The Hoppers and education with the help of White-Ginder.

“Her story gets people reignited,” he said.

Since Ryan White’s death a lot has changed with how the disease is treated and viewed by the public. Thanks in a large part to the work of his mother.

The drug AZT was developed in the 1980s, followed by a “cocktail” of drugs in the 1990s. Now, Atripla is a compound drug that allows patients to take a pill, once a day.

“The new medication doesn’t kill the virus but doesn’t let it replicate,” Pierce says. Instead, your body goes into remission.
“Just like managing any disease, you have to lead a healthier lifestyle,” he notes. “It’s not a death sentence anymore. When people were first diagnosed with HIV, we taught them how to die with dignity. Nowadays, we’re teaching them how to live.”

One of those people is Sharon Cox-Bryson, who says she’s blessed to be a patient at the clinic.

Cox-Bryson, who lives near Albemarle, an hour’s drive from the clinic, was diagnosed with HIV in 1990 after being raped nine years earlier

“I’ve been with lots of different doctors,” says Cox-Bryson, 46. “I knew Dale from the previous clinic. You could not pay me to change doctors.”

Want to know more?
For more information on the Rosedale Infectious Disease clinic visit them at 103 Commerce Centre Drive Suite 103 in Huntersville or visit www.rosedaleid.com.