For Immediate Release
March 19, 2012

KDHE Office of Communications
communications@kdheks.gov, 785-296-0461

National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day is March 20

American Indians and Native Alaskans have the 4th highest rate for new HIV Infections

TOPEKA, Kan.The Kansas Department of Health and Environment (KDHE) Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention will observe National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 20. Communities across the United States commemorate this day to raise awareness of the impact of HIV and AIDS among American Indians, Native Alaskans, Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders.

Native Hawaiians and other Pacific Islanders have the third highest rate for new HIV infections and American Indians and Native Alaskans have the fourth highest rate for new HIV infections, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

Hunter Health Clinic in Wichita is an important community partner working to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS in native communities. Clinic staff frequently conduct outreach at Pow Wows and health fairs, and offer free rapid confidential HIV testing every weekday, with test results available within 20 minutes. On March 20, Hunter Health Clinic will offer a free T-shirt and gift to anyone who comes into their location for HIV testing at 2218 E. Central, Wichita, from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. For more information, please contact Vonnie Long at 316-262-3611 or vlong@hunterhealthclinic.org.

KDHE would like to encourage all Kansans to get tested for HIV. You can find HIV testing locations near you by visiting www.hivtest.org. Knowing your HIV status now and getting proper healthcare if you are HIV-positive is much better than finding out too late.

“The first step in preventing HIV from becoming AIDS is to be tested and be tested early,” said Brenda Walker, Director, KDHE’s Bureau of Disease Control and Prevention. “In 2010, 57 percent of the newly diagnosed HIV cases in Kansas were also AIDS diagnoses. Those who first learn of their HIV status when they already have AIDS have less likelihood of keeping their immune systems healthy long term. Testing is crucial for people who are at risk for acquiring HIV. Knowing your HIV status is critical.”

For further information about HIV/AIDS awareness events in Kansas, please contact Travis Barnhart, HIV Prevention Director at the Kansas Department of Health and Environment, at 785-296-1037 or tbarnhart@kdheks.gov. Visit http://www.nnaapc.org/news/awareness-day.htm for more information about National Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.