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NEW: RI HIV Coalition Announces World AIDS Day at State House

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

 

Rhode Island leaders will honor World AIDS Day this Friday, November 30, at a special ceremony at the State House in Providence. Photo: Lammy831/flickr.

Rhode Island leaders will come together to honor World AIDS Day at a special event on Friday, November 30 from 12-1:30pm in the State Room of the Rhode Island State House. Sponsored by the Rhode Island HIV Prevention Coalition, the event will feature Governor Lincoln Chafee, Rhode Island House Speaker Gordon Fox, and US Senator Sheldon Whitehouse as speakers. A community member living with HIV and Lifespan researcher Wendy Hadley, PhD., Assistant Professor at the Alpert Medical School of Brown University, will also speak at the event.

A new coalition to reduce HIV infections

The RI HIV Prevention Coalition was formed in the spring of 2012 and aims to reduce HIV infections throughout the state through collaboration, education, and advocacy. The Coalition is comprised of 22 community-based organizations and other partners who meet regularly to support efforts to reduce HIV among high-risk groups.

"The State House event represents an opportunity for the Coalition and elected officials to renew attention to a public health problem that has been neglected for too long in Rhode Island," said Thomas Bertrand, MPH, Executive Director of AIDS Project Rhode Island. While there have been preliminary signs of a small drop in HIV infections overall in recent years, the Rhode Island Department of Health HIV/AIDS Epidemiological Profile indicates that HIV continues to be a persistent public health problem in Rhode Island, with 106 new HIV infections reported in 2010.

The risk of a rise in infection

Bertrand warns that Rhode Island could see a rise in HIV infection for at-risk groups such as people aged 20-29, gay and bisexual men, Latinos, and African Americans as soon as the end of the year, as funding to conduct HIV prevention/education for five community-based initiatives will be discontinued on December 31. Subsequently, community-based funding will only be provided HIV testing and retaining people living with HIV in medical care.

Bertrand points to Massachusetts as an example of how an investment in community-based HIV prevention/education can pay off. “In recent years Massachusetts has invested about five times more per capita than Rhode Island in HIV prevention at the community level, and their overall rate of new HIV infections has dropped about 46% since 2000.  During that same time, Rhode Island has only seen a 16% decline. I think we can do better in Rhode Island, but it will require leadership by community groups, government agencies, and elected officials."

 

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