BTL Editorial: Ten things you can do to help stop the HIV epidemic in America

As many may recall, Matt Foreman, the former executive director of the National Gay and Lesbian Task Force, made waves in February when he told the Creating Change conference in Detroit that HIV/AIDS was a "gay disease." Statistics support Foreman's assertion, with nearly 70 percent of cases in Michigan found in the men who have sex with men category. So with World AIDS Day around the corner, Between The Lines thought it might be pertinent to provide a simple list of things you can do to help stop HIV here in Michigan.

10. Make a commitment today as someone who cares about the LBGT community that HIV/AIDS is your problem, whether your are HIV positive or not. The end of the epidemic begins with everyone effected and affected by the epidemic taking part in the solution.

9. Host a fundraiser for your local AIDS service organization. Those funds will go to vital programs like anonymous and confidential HIV testing, prevention outreach, medication support, medical case work, food assistance for persons with HIV and dozens of other services offered by these vital community organizations. Many of these programs are being downsized or worse, cut, as a result of financial constraints from the economic crisis and shrinking government and private granting agencies.

8. Volunteer at the local AIDS service organization. Take an hour a week and help that organization file, pass out literature, distribute condoms or work in their food bank. While that hour is only an hour to you, AIDS service organizations can only survive with your assistance.

7. Promise to tell one friend or family member a day about HIV/AIDS and its impact in the world, America and right here in Michigan. Pass this list of things to do on to them, so they too can help be part of the solution.

6. Talk with your friends about HIV in your life. Do you know someone who is positive? What does HIV make you think of? How do you prevent HIV? These are but a few of literally thousands of ways to start an important conversation - one that can save a life.

5. Ask your physician about HIV testing. Has your physician implemented a process to do routine HIV testing for all the patients in the practice? Remind your physician that it has been over a year since the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta made the recommendation that HIV testing should be an annual test for people of child bearing age in the U.S.

4. Ask your favorite local hang out - whether it is a bar, a coffee house or something in between - to put out a fish bowl full of free condoms and information about HIV/AIDS. Help the employees and staff locate an AIDS service organization that will continue to keep the bowl full.

3. Talk to your clergy member about hosting a sermon on the HIV epidemic. Get your community of faith to commit to becoming part of the solution by supporting the local AIDS service organization with money, volunteer services and other donations.

2. Learn the facts and be prepared. Get informed about HIV and how to prevent being infected. Pass out condoms to your friends and family to remind them to be safe the next time they decide to have sex, and use a condom correctly and consistently every time you have sex.

1. Get tested. The life you save with a simple test might well be your own. Studies show that the sooner HIV infection is detected, the longer a person is likely to live. Besides, do you really want to be the only one who can't show your test results on your next day?

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