Local groups host event for HIV vaccine awareness
Local groups host event for HIV vaccine awareness
by Tim Peter - SGN Staff Writer

May 20th marked the 25th anniversary of the discovery of the HIV virus that causes AIDS. On May 20, 1983, in a paper published in the US journal Science, a team from France's Pasteur Institute, led by Luc Montagnier, described a suspect virus found in a person who had died of AIDS.

This is not an anniversary the GLBT community relishes. Since its discovery, AIDS has killed more people than those who died in World War I. It has touched every corner of earth and every walk of life. While many - especially those in the "Religious Right" community - would like to call this a Gay man's disease and a curse from God against homosexuals, evidence suggests otherwise. It has infected heterosexuals and homosexuals, Gays and Lesbians, men and women. In the late 1990s and early 2000s, the Center for Disease Control (CDC) reported that heterosexual women were being infected at higher rates than any other group of people. Approximately 40 million people around the world are living with HIV, says the website www.seattlevaccine.org, with one million people infected in the USA. Approximately 12 million children are orphaned in Africa because of this disease.

Yet all is not lost. While there still is no cure for AIDS, scientists around the world are working day and night, searching for a cure and a preventive vaccine. On Sunday, May 19, Lifelong Aids Alliance, Gay City Health Project and HIV Vaccine Trials Unit (HVTU) co-hosted the 11th Annual HIV Vaccine Awareness Day at R Place on Seattle's Capitol Hill. The event included a 10-question survey about people's knowledge of HIV and HIV vaccine, a dance contest emceed by Lady Chablis, and a raffle for five $50 gift cards for The Crypt, a novelty and clothing store in Seattle.

"The best long-term hope for controlling the AIDS pandemic is the development of a safe, effective and affordable HIV vaccine," according to literature published by HVTU. "HIV vaccine research is part of the comprehensive approach to control the AIDS pandemic that includes prevention, care and treatment strategies."

"Very few people know about the different HIV vaccine trials," said Luis Viqez, Outreach Manager at Gay City. Viqez said he has been working for 17 years now in HIV counseling, the last six of them at Gay City. "People also have many myths about what's going on," including the belief that the vaccine contains the virus (it doesn't). "One of the things I tell my clients is, 'Think what it would be like one day for you to wake up and see there is a vaccine you can get from a doctor.'"

"Gay City is the primary provider of free HIV and STD testing and counseling for Gay men in Seattle, operating in English and Spanish five days a week," according to their website. However, people "will not be able to receive a diagnosis or treatment of an STD at Gay City." Instead, they are encouraged to contact the Public Health Department or talk to their physician.