Be Positive You’re Negative: World AIDS Day and Every Day

SARAH THAPPABy Sarah Thappa – Sarah is a member of AIDS United’s AmeriCorps National team with the Washington AIDS Partnership and serves as the HIV Health Promotion Specialist at N Street Village. She does HIV education, counseling, outreach, and testing in addition to health promotion classes on various topics. Sarah hails from Northern Illinois and graduated from Carleton College ‘13 with a B.A. in Biology.

***
Let’s kick off this post with a pre-reading quiz… 

Which city has the highest rate of HIV?
a.
Accra, Ghana
b. Dakar, Senegal
c. Washington, D.C.
d. Addis Ababa, Ethiopia

The answer is c. Washington, D.C. The highest concentration of HIV in the world is in Sub-Saharan Africa; however, if Washington, D.C. were a country in Africa, it would rank 24/54 for highest HIV prevalence rates. Ten states account for 2/3 of the HIV diagnoses in 2011, and the South accounted for 48% of those diagnoses.

What percentage of a population infected qualifies as an epidemic?
a.
0.5%
b. 1.0%
c. 2.0%
d. 5.0%

The answer is b. 1.0% of a population infected with a disease defines as an epidemic. The District of Columbia has a reported 2.7% HIV infection rate, according to the Department of Health.

***

ProcessThis past Sunday, December 1st, 2013 was the 25th celebration of World AIDS Day. N Street Village has marked the day by discussing HIV and AIDS with its staff and clients and by looking at how the disease directly affects our community.  We honored the many friends and family we have lost to the disease over the past decades and celebrated the lives of those living with HIV in our community.

There are currently an estimated 34 million people living with HIV throughout the world and an estimated 1.1 million living with HIV in the United States. Racial and ethnic minorities have been disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS from the very beginning of the epidemic. In Washington, D.C., the population with the greatest prevalence rate is African-American heterosexual women. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, African-American women accounted for 64% of new infections among women in 2010.

Homeless women are particularly at risk of contracting HIV disease. They are frequently victims of domestic violence and sexual abuse, which have been linked to increased likelihood of infection.  Homeless women who struggle with addiction may exchange sex for drugs or money, which increases their risk of exposure.

At N Street Village, 11% of the women served report being HIV positive.  The disease continues to push the limits of health care resources available to low-income women in the District. N Street Village is committed to connecting its clients to appropriate medical care by offering primary medical and psychiatric care on-site through Unity Health Care and through partnerships with nearby providers. Additionally, N Street Village combines stable housing with on-site support services, including a day center providing for basic needs, a wellness center with holistic programming, and mental health and addiction services, all of which empower its clients to make healthy life choices.

Today, more people are living with HIV than ever before. HIV is preventable. HIV does not discriminate. I challenge you to join me in looking at how this virus manifests in your life. Who do you know who is living with HIV? Do you know or love someone who has died of an AIDS related illness? What do you do to reduce the stigma and discrimination for those living with HIV?

And most importantly, be positive you’re negative—get tested

Sources for this post include:
Centers for Disease Control and Prevention
Kaiser Family Foundation
Department of Health and Human Services

About nstreetvillage

N Street Village is a community of empowerment and recovery for homeless and low-income women in Washington, D.C. With comprehensive services addressing both emergency and long-term needs, we help women achieve personal stability and make gains in their housing, income, employment, mental health, physical health, and addiction recovery.
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