Young and old learn about AIDS
A guest at Thursday's World AIDS Day Family Expo swabs the inside of her mouth with a test designed to collect and test cells for the AIDS virus. (Eric Miller)
The event featured about 15 organizations such as Clinicas del Salud, White Cross Pharmacy and March of Dimes who distributed health information.
The event also had raffles, live music, dancing, free HIV rapid tests, flu shots, blood pressure and glucose tests as well as a glowstick vigil to honor those who have died from AIDS-related complications.
“In Imperial County, people don’t have enough information on HIV. They don’t realize how it’s transmitted or that they’re at risk,” World AIDS Day Planning Committee Chairman Greg Curran said. “Because we’re in a border community, prevalence is two times greater than the rest of the country.”
He added that a stigma about HIV and AIDS remains, particularly in Latino communities. People are afraid to get tested or that they will test positive and be ostrasized.
Franko Guillen has been working with HIV testing and counseling since 1985.
He said it’s important for family-friendly events like the expo Thursday night to reach out to the community in a way that makes people comfortable learning about HIV and AIDS.
“It’s always important to talk about HIV in the family setting,” Guillen said. “Get informed. Go out of your way to find out about HIV to be better-informed for your children.”
Those who are sexually active should get tested once every six months he said. Most standard tests for sexually transmitted diseases do not include an HIV test so people should specifically request one from a clinic.
Guillen added that a lot of Hispanic males do not use protection and need to realize that they’re putting themselves at risk.
Brawley Union High School student Rosalie Otero attended the expo Thursday to get extra credit for a class but said she thinks events like the expo are important for the community.
“I think it’s really good just to find out more,” she said. “I’m curious.”
Expo attendees ranged from senior citizens to small children.
“It’s something we’ve encouraged with the older crowd, because kids will get information from other places otherwise,” World AIDS Day Committee Co-Chairwoman Araceli Gaines said.
President Barack Obama announced Thursday that his administration was ending the ban that prohibited people with HIV from entering America and also that the U.S. will host the international AIDS conference next year.
“When Latinos are dying sooner than other groups, and when black women feel forgotten, even though they account for most of the new cases among women, then we’ve got to do more,” he said.
Visit www.worldaidsday.org for more information.
Staff Writer Chelcey Adami can be reached at 760-337-3452 or email@example.com