Indiana Hosts 5th Annual Statewide HIV/AIDS Awareness Program
Health officials and public health advocates in Indiana on Friday hosted the Fifth Annual Statewide HIV Awareness Program in an effort to increase HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention, the Indianapolis Star reports. According to the Star, approximately 9,170 people are living with HIV/AIDS in Indiana, of whom one-third are black. Andrea Perez, Communities of Color program manager for the Indiana State Department of Health, said that the increase in the number of black people living with HIV/AIDS in Indiana is a "big cause for alarm," adding, "As much as we try to get the word out about the disease being 100% preventable, the numbers are still growing." She added that last year, Hispanics accounted for 7% of new HIV/AIDS cases among women in the state. The program includes information on where HIV testing and other services are available and prevention methods.
Mwangi James Murage -- director of training and evaluation for the Indiana Minority Health Coalition, which was a sponsor of the event -- said that a majority of the people who attended the event were aware of HIV/AIDS but might not be taking precautions to prevent transmission of the virus. "There is a difference between being aware and being aware to a point where you change your behavior in a specific way," Murage said.
About 900 people attended last year's event, many of whom were middle and high school students, Teresa White, director of support services for Bethlehem House, said. White said that the presence of new HIV cases among people as young as 12 and 13 makes it important to discuss prevention with young people. "Abstinence is the 100% way of not becoming infected," she said, "However, that's just not the reality of today." Perez said that people who engage in risky behaviors should use condoms during sexual activity and clean needles during injection drug use, as well as go for HIV testing regularly. "The power to prevent HIV infection is really in your hands," she said, "It's a matter of getting the information that you need and taking the steps that you need to" (Rudavsky, Indianapolis Star, 11/14).