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Back to Section One | Back to Arts & Entertainment
posted Friday, February 4, 2012 - Volume 40 Issue 05
Dr. J - Resolve to get involved
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Dr. J - Resolve to get involved

by Dr. Joanne Stekler - Special to the SGN

Joanne Stekler, M.D., MPH, is deputy director of community services for the HIV/STD Program at Public Health - Seattle & King County. She is also an internal medicine and infectious disease physician at Harborview Medical Center, and assistant professor of medicine and epidemiology at the University of Washington.

This article is part of a series focusing on HIV and other STD prevention and care topics for Gay/Bisexual men and Transgender individuals in Seattle and King County.
Did you make a resolution for 2012? Was it to renew your gym membership? (And did you resolve to actually work out while you are there?) Are you planning to decrease your calories and eat more vegetables? Planning to quit smoking?

What about renewing your commitment to fight HIV?

How?

One way is to support and participate in local HIV prevention activities.

February 7 is National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. It's one of several days throughout the year that are meant to get everyone thinking and talking about HIV and AIDS.

Why this particular focus on blacks and HIV? In the U.S., almost half of the people living with HIV are black. In King County, blacks make up six percent of the population, but 17 percent of people living with HIV. Compared to whites, HIV rates in King County are twice as high among U.S.-born blacks and five times as high among blacks who were born in Africa.

We know that HIV infections among younger Gay and Bi guys are increasing across the country. And younger black guys who have sex with guys are getting hit the hardest.

In recognition of this challenge and as part of National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, several local organizations are joining forces to sponsor an event at Mount Zion Baptist Church on February 7. Leaders from the local African-American and African communities will be there, local poets and choirs will perform, and the wonderful Dr. Maxine Hayes, Washington State's Health Officer, will give a keynote.

Dr. Renee McCoy from Lifelong AIDS Alliance will host this evening of inspiration, education, and information. A raffle of artwork by local artists will benefit BABES Network, Seattle's peer-support agency for women living with HIV. And the Center for Multi-Cultural Health will provide free HIV testing.

Event sponsors include Center for Multicultural Health, HIV Vaccine Trials Unit, Lifelong AIDS Alliance, Mount Zion Baptist Church, Neighborhood House/Project HANDLE, People of Color Against AIDS Network, and Public Health - Seattle & King County.

Doors open at 6 p.m. with a free meal in Mount Zion's Fellowship Hall, 1634 19th Avenue. At 7 p.m., we will move upstairs to the sanctuary for the main event. All are welcome. For more details, go to www.kingcounty.gov/health/hiv.

If an event like this isn't for you (or even if it is), there are lots of other things you can do to fight HIV in 2012. Participate in an HIV vaccine trial to help advance this crucial work. The Seattle HIV Vaccine Trials Unit is always looking for more people to join their studies. Finding a vaccine to prevent HIV is one of the great health challenges of our time.

And don't forget about testing. Knowing your HIV status and encouraging others to know theirs is a critical part of HIV prevention. If you're Gay or Bi, HIV-negative, and sexually active, you should get tested for HIV and STDs at least once a year. There are lots of places to get tested in Seattle, and they are often free or inexpensive.

HIV testing is offered at the Center for Multicultural Health, POCAAN, and Project HANDLE. You can always get tested at Public Health's STD Clinic, at Gay City, at the baths, or at your doctor's office. For hours and locations, call 206-296-4649 or go to www.tinyurl.com/hivtestplaces.

You can also do your part in HIV prevention by using condoms with partners if you're not in a monogamous relationship.

If you're HIV-positive, you can be a big part of HIV prevention by taking care of your own health. See your doctor regularly. Talk to your doctor about HIV meds and when's the best time to start taking them. Once you and your doctor decide on meds that will work best for you, take them as prescribed. HIV meds can lower your viral load, improve your personal health, and make it much harder to transmit HIV to others.

However you decided to get involved in HIV prevention in 2012, make it a resolution you'll keep.

And if you're free, join us at Mount Zion for National Black HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on February 7.

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