May 19 is National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day

“Saving face can’t make you safe. Talk about HIV – for me, for you, for everyone." That's this year's theme to increase awareness for Asian and Pacific Islanders about HIV/AIDS, according to the [Kansas Department of Health and Environment][1].

Although there aren't as many Asians and Pacific Islanders in Kansas as there are in California, for example, it never hurts to be reminded about HIV?AIDS. 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, according to a KDHE media release. For many people, protecting their reputation actually keeps them from getting the help and care they need to survive.

Unfortunately, in Kansas a disproportionate number of people test late for HIV, often finding out they are HIV-positive once they already have AIDS. “The first step in preventing HIV from becoming AIDS is to be tested and be tested early,” said Brenda Walker, director of the KDHE Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention. “In 2010, fifty-five percent of the 171 newly reported cases of HIV in Kansas were diagnosed with AIDS. What's happening is people are waiting until they're sick and then they're getting tested for HIV and, of course, that's way too late.”

According to the Banyan Tree Project, data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention shows that Asian and Pacific Islanders have the highest rate of increase in new HIV infections in the nation, which is the only statistically significant growth among any racial or ethnic group. But two-thirds of Asian and Pacific Islanders have never been tested for HIV.

KDHE recommends that If you've never been tested for HIV, you should be tested at least once regardless of how low risk you consider yourself. Knowing your HIV status now and getting proper health care if you are HIV-positive is better than finding out too late.

Locally, these organizations offer free HIV testing:

You can find information about clinics that offer free testing in areas outside Lawrence by going to www.hivtest.org.

You can find more information about this awareness day by visiting the Banyan Tree Project's website.

[1]: http:// www.kdheks.gov/hiv/index.html

Tagged: HIV/AIDS

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