Today is the eighth annual "National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day" While the HIV/AIDS virus has been of monumental concern since it's discovery in the mid 1980's, it was at first believed to be a disease that targeted only homosexual males. Although the AIDS epidemic worldwide demonstrated tragedy for men, women and children, it continued to be focused on as a homosexual male disease in the United States. However, new statistics show that girls and women in the United States are contracting the disease at a greater rate. In 1985, only 2% of Minnesotans diagnosed with HIV/AIDs were female. At the last count in 2011, it was found that this number had risen to 25%. It is estimated that over 1700 females in the state of Minnesota have HIV/AIDs.
In honor of this day, the Minnesota AIDS Project http://www.mnaidsproject.org/ hosted a brunch and silent auction at Cave Vin. complete with a speaker, Annie Elmer, who was diagnosed with the AIDS virus in 1990. http://www.cavevin.net
Ms. Elmer contracted the disease through having unprotected sex with a man, and was at first told by her doctor that she would be dead within 5 years. She now serves a speaker and a volunteer advocate in an effort to help prevent the disease from being spread. http://www.annieelmer.com
National Women and Girls HIV/AIDs Awareness day seeks to help in three ways:
To raise awareness of the growing epidemic among females.
To encourage women to get tested for the disease.
To teach women and girls ways in which to avoid the risky behaviors that allow the disease to continue.
Kris Ehresmann, the DHS director for infectious disease, has also said that there is a goal to get people into treatment once they are diagnosed with the disease, as it has been shown that victims of HIV/AIDs are less likely to transmit the disease to others if they are receiving the treatment that they need. While many of us used to think of HIV/AIDS as an untreatable disease, it is clear now that various forms of treatment can greatly affect the epidemic. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/worldaidsday/womengirls/index.html
First and foremost, medical breakthroughs have allowed people with the disease to live longer than was ever predicted before.
Second, treatment often includes a psycho-educational component that allows people to learn more about risk factors of which they were previously unaware.
Third, various forms of treatment help the disenfranchised groups of people who are most likely to acquire and pass on the disease. For instance, two of the highest risk lifestyles would be those of intervenous drug-users and prostitutes. A holistic treatment program that addresses both psychological and physical components will help a person with HIV/AIDS to live a healthier lifestyle where they are not continuing to pass on the disease to others.
Lastly, no one can negate the feel-good factor of a community getting together to support people in need. Annie Elmer is a perfect example of this. When she was first diagnosed with the disease, she kept it a secret. In many areas of the world, this disease has such a stigma attached to it, that people with the disease chose to never let others know about it. This perpetuates the problem, because without education and treatment, the disease will continue to thrive. However, when Annie did decide to come forward, she was surprised to find that the people she knew were extremely supportive, helping her to battle the disease and to become an advocate for others in the battle against this horrible disease. http://www.annieelmer.com
For more information about the HIV/AIDS epidemic in Minnesota, see the Minnesota Department of Health website. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/index.html
For more information about getting tested for HIV/AIDS, see the following link. http://www.health.state.mn.us/divs/idepc/diseases/hiv/hivtesting.html
Other helpful links:
The Aliveness Project http://www.aliveness.org/
Escaping prostitution. http://www.mncasa.org/
Dual diagnosis treatment in Minnesota http://www.dhs.state.mn.us/main/idcplg?IdcService=GET_DYNAMIC_CONVERSION&RevisionSelectionMethod=LatestReleased&dDocName=id_000082
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