TOPEKA -- The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) announces two national HIV/AIDS awareness days for the month of May. Friday, May 18th is HIV Vaccine Awareness Day and this Saturday, May 19th is National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
KDHE would like to encourage all Kansans to get tested for HIV, regardless of how low risk you consider yourself. Knowing your HIV status now and getting proper healthcare if you are HIV-positive is much better than finding out too late. So, why not get tested for HIV today? You can find free testing at many local health departments and community-based organizations by visiting www.hivtest.org.
Each year on May 18, HIV Vaccine Awareness Day, Kansas citizens and staff at community-based organizations, health departments and businesses can help raise awareness about the continued search for an HIV vaccine by wearing the red AIDS ribbon upside down so the ends of the ribbon form a ‘V’ for vaccine. You can learn more about HIV Vaccine Awareness Day by visiting http://www.niaid.nih.gov/news/events/hvad/Pages/default.aspx.
Also in May we commemorate National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on May 19. This year’s theme is “Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV – for me, for you, for everyone.” You can find more information about this awareness day by visiting http://www.banyantreeproject.org/.
The theme of not worrying about saving face helps raise awareness that many people, regardless of their race or ethnicity, choose not to test for HIV because they are afraid of what other people will think if they are seen going in for an HIV test. For many people, protecting their reputations actually keeps them from getting the help and care they need to survive. Though an HIV diagnosis is scary for most people to receive, it’s important to know if you have HIV early on so that you and your healthcare provider can keep the disease under control and you can live much longer.
“The first step in preventing HIV from becoming AIDS is to be tested and be tested early,” said Brenda Walker, Director, KDHE’s Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention. “In 2010, 57% of the newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kansas were also AIDS diagnoses. Those who first learn of their HIV status when they already have AIDS have less likelihood of keeping their immune systems healthy long term. Testing is crucial for people who are at risk for acquiring HIV. Knowing your HIV status is critical.”
Seth Berkley, president and CEO of the International AIDS Vaccine Initiative, was quoted in POZ magazine saying, “History shows us that the most powerful and cost-effective way to control a viral infectious disease like AIDS is with a vaccine. Many of us grew up in an AIDS-free world. We owe it to the next generation that they should be free of this terrible disease.”