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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, December 2, 2011 - Volume 39 Issue 48
Stronger together: Seattle observes World AIDS Day
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Stronger together: Seattle observes World AIDS Day

by Shaun Knittel - SGN Associate Editor

On December 1, community members came together to observe World AIDS Day 2011 at Stronger Together: The Eighth Annual World AIDS Day Breakfast at the Seattle Convention Center.

The breakfast was presented by Multifaith Works, an organization that unites communities of compassionate care and inclusive spirituality with people living in isolation and loneliness; Seattle Area Support Groups, a non-profit organization that builds community and cultivates powerful, healthy lives by providing emotional support and personal development services to those affected by HIV/AIDS, the Queer communities, and those who love them; Gay City Health Project, a multicultural Gay men's health organization and the leading provider of HIV and STD testing in King County; and Seattle Counseling Service, which provides mental health and addiction services to LGBT communities of Seattle, King County, and the surrounding regions.

World AIDS Day is observed December 1 each year and is dedicated to raising awareness of the AIDS pandemic caused by the spread of HIV infection. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people worldwide, and more than 33 million people live with HIV.

The breakfast was a tremendous success with Amanda Bearse, an out Lesbian actress, as emcee, who asked attendees to sign messages of hope and love on pieces of fabric that will be woven together to make a panel for the AIDS Memorial Quilt. Bearse, who played Marcy D'Arcy on TV's Married With Children, teared up as she explained that one of the panels on display behind the speakers' podium belonged to a friend of hers who passed away from AIDS in the mid-1980s.

The highlight of the breakfast came when activist Paul Kawata gave a speech in which he recognized how far we've come in the fight against HIV/AIDS in 30 years and asked everyone to pledge 25 or more years to ridding the world of the disease.

Kawata gave the speech after accepting the AIDS Service Award for 2011. Since 1989, Kawata has served as executive director of the National Minority AIDS Council (NMAC), the premier organization dedicated to building leadership in communities of color to address the challenges of HIV/AIDS. Under Kawata's direction, NMAC implemented the first HIV treatment education programs in the United States targeted at minorities, and increased membership from 300 agencies and groups to 3,000.

At the conclusion of the event, participants were asked to make a donation to Multifaith Works, Seattle Area Support Groups, Gay City Health Project, and Seattle Counseling Service so that they may continue the important services they offer.

In King County, more than 4,400 people have died from HIV. Approximately 7,600 people are now living with HIV, including an estimated 10% to 15% of infected individuals who are unaware of their HIV status. About 300 people are newly infected each year. Prevention and public education are still critical to stopping this disease, and Public Health - Seattle & King County is working to ensure there is easy access to HIV testing for all residents.

Public Health - Seattle & King County recommends that all people between the ages of 13 and 64 receive at least one HIV test, with follow-up tests whenever they encounter new risks. People at higher risk for HIV infection should get an HIV test at least once each year, and as frequently as every three months for those at highest risk. Effective treatments are now widely available for people living with HIV, and more informed decisions about treatment can be made when an infection is detected early.

More information on the HIV/AIDS care and prevention programs administered by Public Health - Seattle & King County can be found on the department's HIV/AIDS website: www.kingcounty.gov/health/hiv.

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