In 1987 (approximately six years after the health community in the US first recognized the disease that would eventually be call AIDS) several concerned people, who had family and friends becoming sick with AIDS, got together to discuss the need to provide services specific to those diagnosed with this disease. At that time there was not alot of knowledge about or services provided in East Alabama. Patients were either sent elsewhere (to cities where service for those with AIDS could be provided) or kept at the hospital until they died.
Inspired by compassion and the need for service for those living with HIV, a few concerned members in the community including a nurse and social worker from East Alabama Medical Center (EAMC), met at the hospital where several of the first AIDS patients had arrived in East Alabama.
In 1988, with help from Montgomery AIDS Outreach and Birmingham AIDS Outreach, the first volunteer meeting was held in East Alabama. This meeting was to form a community-based organization (CBO). At this meeting a collection hat was passed. $150.00 was collected that night and thus the formation of a direct services committee, which would eventually become Lee County AIDS Outreach (LCAO), was formed.
Lee County AIDS Outreach was incorporated in 1988 and the Board met in each other's living rooms until an office could be afforded. Volunteers took turns attending the CBO Advisory Committee meetings and were trained by both Emory University and BAO to provide post-test counseling and direct support. There was no paid staff for years and several Social Work students from Auburn University served as early Executive Directors during this time.
Eventually Lee County AIDS Outreach started to branch out its services to other counties including: Macon, Russell, Tallapoosa, and Chambers. In 1997, LCAO hired its first full-time staff member and changed its name to East Alabama AIDS Outreach to more reflect its service area.
In order to provide the best in high quality care and to continue its mission, East Alabama AIDS Outreach became a subsidery of East Alabama Medical Center in 2003 with a name change to unity wellness center in 2009.
The Unity Wellness Center was and is truly a grassroots effort, and had it not been for the concerned citizens of East Alabama and others, none of it would've taken place or continue today.