Today I went to the Capitol in St. Paul for AIDS Action Day. This was sponsored by the Minnesota AIDS Project. HIV Advocates converged on the state capitol to increase visibility about HIV, meet with legislators, and rally in the Capitol Rotunda. We heard personal stories from several who were diagnosed with HIV. Hearing their stories and talking to the legislators make the difference when it comes to protecting funds for HIV prevention and services.
HIV can strike anyone at any age. Medical treatment has come a long way in the last thirty years. It still needs more research and more funding.
Many people with HIV are coinfected with HCV (hepatitis C). This is a growing public health concern, with an estimated 4-5 million persons coinfected worldwide. In the United States, of the approximately one million people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA), 30% are also infected with HCV.
For more information on HIV/HCV coinfection, see the hcvadvocate website.
Every 35 minutes a woman tests positive for HIV in the United States. It's time to get tested. If you think you're at risk, don't wait. It's a simple blood test. You can be tested for hepatitis C at the same time.
Here's the WHO website for more information on HIV/AIDS.
The stories told today at the Capitol Rotunda emphasized the need for more education. One woman told how schools teach a lot about nutrition and exercise but only spend two weeks on sex education. Another young person told how he was diagnosed with HIV at the age of 16. He pointed out that kids are going to have sex. Why not educate them on the risks involved and how to protect themselves? He particularly emphasized that there is no education in schools regarding gay sex.
Many HIV advocates and patients today visited legislators. The idea is to provide more sex education in schools and to provide more funding for HIV/AIDS. We cannot cut funding. To do so would be to cause more deaths. I made a visit to Sandy Rummel's office. She didn't have any openings for the rest of the day, so I left a message with her legislative assistant. I asked that she be in favor of more funding for HIV/HCV, not less. I know that Sandy will do the right thing for this issue. She always does.
I personally had friends die from HIV/AIDS and from liver failure caused by hepatitis C. These are lives that could have been saved. Unfortunately, it has become a political issue rather than a humanitarian issue.
Kudos to Mark Dayton for attending this rally. This is personal to him also, for he lost a friend and coworker in the 1980's to AIDS. He posted a very poignant and sensitive statement about it on his Facebook wall. By the way, Dayton was the only gubernatorial candidate to attend this event.
AIDS Awareness Day at St. Paul State Capitol Rotunda
AIDS Action Day, March 10, 2010
Ephraim Olani, Executive Director of SAYFSM
(Sub-Saharn African Youth & Family Servies in Minnesota
Minnesota AIDS Project Advocate
AIDS Awareness Day Speaker
AIDS Project Photographer
Sandy Rummel's Office