TRI-CITIES, WA – It’s National Gay Men’s HIV/AIDS Awareness Day. A day to raise awareness about the impact on HIV on gay and bisexual men in the United States.
In the Tri-Cities, there has been an increase in cases for the past few years.
This day is meant to bring awareness to HIV and AIDS. The staff at Benton Franklin Health District want to help educate the community on it.
They say the more you know on how to prevent HIV and how it works, the more it could benefit all of us.
“The fact is that HIV is present and will be present until there is a cure and it affects everybody. I think there is a huge misconception that it only affects the gay and bisexual,” Adrian Aguilar with the Benton Franklin Health District said.
But it doesn’t, the health district has seen multiple cases from pregnant women to young teens that were exposed to HIV differently.
With the misconceptions among the community, Aguilar said people need to know how HIV is transmitted.
“A lot of people think that by touching each others hands that they can get HIV or by drinking out of each others glass, but that is not the case, it has to be blood to blood contact,” he said.
He said one important thing to know is HIV and AIDS are not the same thing.
“People have the miss understanding of what HIV is and AIDS is, a lot of people combine the two of them. AIDS is the last stage of HIV,” he said.
Which means your immune system is compromised by HIV which is a virus which then leads to AIDS.
“There is no such thing as people die from HIV or AIDS. It’s more like people die from opportunistic infections that come into the body due to the fact that HIV open the door for them,” he said.
He said today is not the same as it was almost 40 years ago during the “AIDS pandemic.”
“At the moment it is not a death sentence, if you take care, treatment for it. It is believed that you can live a normal life. I don’t want to say normal, because there is not such a thing, but more like everyone else’s life. You don’t have to worry about it as long as you take your meds daily,” he said.
There still is no cure for HIV, however, there are a lot of different ways you can prevent it. One way is by risk reduction.
“We talk to the public about prep and where to go with that. At the moment there is one provider that provides prep and that parenthood that provides prep,” he said.
You can also prevent HIV and AIDS by practicing safe sex. If you are sexually active, he said it is recommended for you to get tested every three to six months.
Services for HIV and AIDS at Benton Franklin Health District are free for community members. This includes people who do not have insurance or legal documents. They say that if you have any questions just ask the Benton Franklin Health District.