World AIDS Day by Joan Opyr 1988 - 2008 December 1, 2008 marks the 20th anniversary of World AIDS Day. Founded by the World Health Organization to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS and to help stop the spread of the disease, World AIDS Day has global significance as the HIV infection rate now approaches 39 million. On World AIDS Day, communities are encouraged to raise awareness, to educate, to continue the fight for a cure, and to remember and honor those we have lost. W hile HIV/AIDS disproportionately affects those living in the developing world, the disease continues to ravage marginalized populations in the United States as well. Women, particularly women of color, young gay men, at risk youth, the homeless, the poor, and poverty-stricken populations generally have a disproportionate rate of infection. Given the current state of our health care system, these are the populations least likely to receive adequate education and appropriate care. But HIV/AIDS can and does affect anyone. The disease does not discriminate, and neither should we. That's the point of World AIDS Day those who are living with HIV/AIDS deserve the best possible care, the full support of the community, and an end to the ongoing prejudice and ignorance that many patients continue to face. We are talking about our friends, our neighbors, or, in some cases, ourselves. The Centers for Disease Control estimates that around 56,000 people in the United States are newly diagnosed with HIV each year. In Spokane, an estimated 750 to 1250 people are living with HIV and/or AIDS and, sadly, since the virus was first identified, approximately 6,500 people in the state of Washington have died. There is good news for the Spokane community. A new HIV Clinic has opened at Internal Medicine Residency Spokane (IMRS). The clinic will provide superior medical care for people with HIV/AIDS, and it will offer training and experience for graduate Physicians in Internal Medicine specializing in HIV/ AIDS. The new HIV Clinic at IMRS will be working with community partners Spokane AIDS Network (SAN) and the Spokane Regional Health District (SRHD), both of which have identified a need for greater patient care in the Inland Northwest. Twenty years after the first World AIDS Day, there are reasons both to hope and to worry. Patients with HIV/AIDS are living longer, and while this is as yet no cure for HIV, research continues in earnest. As Victoria Carding at the Spokane Regional Health District notes, "Medications are becoming available that make living with HIV easier, but they can still have difficult side effects such as nausea and diarrhea. There has seemed to be a rise in young people becoming infected. It is unclear as to why whether people are testing more or having unprotected sex but this diagnosis at such a young age of course impacts the person severely." In Spokane, World AIDS Day will be commemorated at The Community Building on Monday, December 1st from 5:30 7:30 p.m. Mayor Mary Verner will deliver the opening remarks. The catered event will feature music, and art by local HIVpositive artists will be on display. Spokane's World AIDS Day will culminate with an outdoor candlelight vigil. www.qviewnorthwest.com | Q View Northwest - Spokane Edition | December 2008 |