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AIDS Alabama hopes hairstylists can help women address health issues

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BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

AIDS Alabama is tapping into the tight bond between hairstylists and their clients to help women address serious health issues.

When AIDS Alabama, a group dedicated to supporting people with HIV and AIDS, sought to reach women in Birmingham, they looked to people women trust with their hair and with their personal lives.

"It's more of a friendship and a counselor, you have to be everything being a hairstylist," explained Birmingham stylist Will Mack.

"When we were doing research we had a lot of stylists say a lot of their clients come in every two weeks, but she hasn't been to a doctor in two to three years," added Dafina Ward with AIDS Alabama.

The group decided to go with a unique approach. They designed the Beauty in Knowing campaign where they'll use stylist to reach 500 Birmingham women.

"Reaching the stylist and teaching how to get engaged. Teaching them how to have health information in their salons and teaching them how to have their health information. Our goal is to reach 25 stylists who in turn reach 20 women each," Ward said.

AIDS Alabama hosted one of many conferences Monday. A team of experts taught local stylists about common health issues affecting women in the community and how they can find help dealing with finding healthcare, sexually transmitted diseases and domestic violence.

"Also other women reproductive issues, domestic violence, substance abuse, and the need to really address mental health issues," added Ward.

Mack just learned about the Beauty In Knowing campaign and is thinking about getting involved.

"It does make sense. It's a word of mouth thing, and [clients] come here, and I'll tell them things, and they're going to spread that, "added Mack.

AIDS Alabama says they had a great turn out on Monday. About two dozen stylists were there. The group plans to hold a similar conference next month.

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