Pawtucket, RI – In observance of World AIDS Day 2018 alongside communities around the globe, the Rhode Island HIV and STI Prevention Coalition is hosting a free community event on Friday, November 30, at The Met (adjacent to the Hope Artiste Village) at 1005 Main St. in Pawtucket 12-1:30 p.m. The event is free and open to the public and will conclude with a reception and light refreshments.
December 1, 2018, marks the 30th World AIDS Day, an annual commemoration of the pandemic and the more than 30 million people lost to complications from HIV and AIDS around the world. The World Health Organization designated the first World AIDS Day on December 1, 1988, at a time when rates of HIV transmission were rapidly increasing, deaths from complications from AIDS were skyrocketing, and grassroots community activism defined much of the social and political response to HIV. While HIV is a manageable disease for those with access to medication, the epidemic persists, with approximately 35 million people globally who are living with HIV.
This year’s Rhode Island World AIDS Day event will feature speakers representing diverse facets of HIV/STI prevention and treatment efforts in the state who will provide their perspectives on World AIDS Day, followed by an opportunity for audience discussion. The program includes speakers Philip A. Chan, M.D., M.S., Consultant Medical Director for the Rhode Island Department of Health and Director of the Rhode Island STD Clinic at The Miriam Hospital; Paul Loberti, MPH, of the Rhode Island Executive Office of Health and Human Services; Brenda Clement of Housing Works RI; a member of Rhode Island College’s Co-EXIST program; as well as individuals who are living with HIV and will share their own personal stories. In addition, the Coalition will also present an award for outstanding contributions and service to the HIV community.
“This year is the first year we decided to honor a team of people rather than one individual,” says Lisa Hoopis, co-chair of the Coalition. “Dr. Philip Chan and his dedicated staff at the Miriam have a long history of providing excellent care to Rhode Islanders living with HIV as well as offering critically needed HIV and STI testing services to the community at large. The Coalition voted to honor all of them with this award in recognition of their contribution the health and well-being of the community at large.”
In Rhode Island as well as nationally, the HIV epidemic disproportionately affects specific subpopulations. While Rhode Island diagnoses have decreased in number overall, the number of diagnoses among gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men (MSM), as well as diagnoses among people of color, remain disproportionately high:
- MSM represent approximately 6% of the male RI population but they account for approximately 70% of all male HIV diagnoses in Rhode Island in the past five years.
- People of color are also overrepresented among HIV diagnoses in Rhode Island: from 2011 to 2015, Black/African American and Hispanic/Latinx populations represented 20% and 26% of new HIV diagnoses, respectively, while making up only 7% and 15% of the state population.
- Sobering national data published by the CDC in April 2018 estimate that 1 out of every 2 Black/African American MSM will contract HIV in his lifetime, compared to 1 in 5 Hispanic/Latinx MSM and 1 in 11 white MSM.
- HIV surveillance data are not available for transgender women in Rhode Island. According to national estimates, however, transgender women are 34 times more likely to be living with HIV compared to the overall adult population.
Many Rhode Island organizations promote access to HIV care and prevention of other STIs through testing and treatment, as well as access to pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily pill that prevents HIV transmission. Linkage to comprehensive medical and social service care helps people living with HIV stay on medications and achieve an undetectable viral level, which prevents HIV transmission to their sexual partners. And education, delivered through health centers and community outreach across the state, promotes awareness of, and participation in, the many services and resources for HIV prevention and care in Rhode Island. In order to successfully fight HIV in Rhode Island, these services must remain accessible and affordable.
Also participating in the World AIDS Day event is AIDS Quilt RI, caring for the AIDS Memorial Quilt in RI and Southeastern New England. AIDS Quilt RI has been active since 1992 and supports HIV/AIDS service organizations by providing displays of locally created Quilt panels for HIV-related activities, and by conducting Anna’s Workshops, in which young people in a variety of settings create panels in memory people lost to AIDS who have a Rhode Island connection. More information is available at www.aidsquiltri.org.
For more information on the Rhode Island HIV and STI Prevention Coalition, visit www.facebook.com/RIHIVSTIprevention.