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For Release:  February 29, 2008
Contact:  Pamela Williams
Office of Communications
405/271-5601

March Highlights HIV/AIDS Health Awareness Activities

March is a month full of opportunities to increase understanding of HIV/AIDS, a disease that disproportionately affects certain groups of people. National and local efforts will recognize these three events during March:  National Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS (March 2-8), National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 10), and National Native American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian HIV/AIDS Awareness Day (March 20). 

The Oklahoma State Department of Health (OSDH) supports these observances to bring attention and education concerning the extreme effects of HIV/AIDS.  Local events that will include a time for reflection, learning and action include the following:

National Black Church Week of Prayer for the Healing of AIDS, March 2-8:

•        This event is sponsored by Balm in Gilead, a non-profit, non-governmental organization whose mission is to improve the health status of people of African descent (http://www.balmingilead.org/home.asp).  It is a powerful week of prayer, education and action. This national AIDS awareness campaign engages black congregations to support, encourage and empower African Americans, Africans and all people to take action toward stopping the spread of HIV/AIDS in black communities worldwide.

•        The African-American Faith Community for AIDS Prevention and its coalition of at least 12 churches will join other faith-based organizations in Oklahoma and nationwide to honor the week by providing sermons that directly address the issues surrounding HIV and AIDS.  Churches are also encouraged to pray and engage in dialogue about stigma, homophobia and denial.

•        Red Rock North Behavioral Health Services at 2240 N.W. 39th Street, Oklahoma City, will offer free, confidential, oral rapid HIV antibody testing on a walk-in basis on March 3-6, 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.  For additional information, contact Michael Maus at (405) 525-5165.

•        Regional AIDS Intercommunity Network (R.A.I.N.), 600 N.W. 23rd, Suite 101, Oklahoma City, will be offering HIV antibody testing, 8:30 a.m. to 4 p.m., March 3-6.  There will be targeted information available as well as referral for additional services.  For additional information, contact Julie Lovegrove at (405) 232-2437.

National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, March 10:

•        The theme for this year is Taking Action to Save Our Lives.  The campaign encourages women and girls to get tested for HIV/AIDS.  In 2005, women represented 26 percent of new AIDS diagnoses, compared to only 11 percent of new AIDS cases reported in 1990.  Most women are infected with HIV through heterosexual contact and injection drug use.  Women of color are disproportionately affected by HIV/AIDS, which is now the leading cause of death for black women ages 25 to 34.  For more information, visit this Web site:

http://www.hhs.gov/aidsawarenessdays/days/woman/index.html.

•        Guiding Right, Inc., through funding by the Department of Human Service’s Office of Women’s Health, is sponsoring a “Totally You Day” on March 10 at Douglass High School, 900 Martin Luther King Blvd. in Oklahoma City. This event targets seventh and eighth grade girls and involves HIV/STD education packaged in a fun interactive way.  For additional information, contact Nina Johnson at (405) 733-0771.

•        Red Rock North Behavioral Health Services at 2240 N.W. 39th Street, Oklahoma City, will offer free, confidential, oral rapid HIV antibody testing on a walk-in basis on March 10 from 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  For additional information, contact Michael Maus at (405) 525-5165.

•        Regional AIDS Intercommunity Network (R.A.I.N.), 600 N.W. 23rd, Suite 101, Oklahoma City, will be offering HIV antibody testing, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on March 10.  There will be targeted information available as well as referral for additional services as necessary.  For additional information, contact Julie Lovegrove at (405) 232-2437.

National Native (American Indian, Alaska Native, and Native Hawaiian) HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, March 20:

•        The theme for this year is A Celebration of Life.  HIV is affecting thousands of American Indians and Alaska Natives.  These groups have the third highest infection rates in the United States, despite having the smallest population.  This HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will challenge Native people to create a greater awareness of the risks of HIV/AIDS in their communities, to reflect on those who have passed, and those who are infected and affected by HIV/AIDS; to call for increased resources for testing and early detection; and to seek support for increasing our treatment and care options.  For more information visit this Web site: http://www.hhs.gov/aidsawarenessdays/days/native/index.html

•        Red Rock North Behavioral Health Services at 2240 N.W. 39th Street, Oklahoma City, will offer free, confidential, oral rapid HIV antibody testing on a walk-in basis on March 20, 8 a.m. to 8 p.m.  For additional information, contact Michael Maus at (405) 525-5165.

•        Regional AIDS Intercommunity Network (R.A.I.N.), 600 N.W. 23rd, Suite 101, Oklahoma City, will be offering HIV antibody testing, 8:30 a.m. to 4:00 p.m. on March 20.  There will be culturally targeted information available, as well as referral for additional services as necessary.  For additional information, contact Julie Lovegrove at (405) 232-2437.

•        The second annual Native HIV/AIDS Awareness Day will be observed on March 20, at the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribal Complex (Conference Room) in Concho, from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.  Presenters from the Cheyenne Arapaho Tribal Health Programs, Oklahoma Native American AIDS Coalition, Indian Health Service, and the Oklahoma State Department of Health will provide educational information. Lunch and door prizes will be provided. The Oklahoma Native American AIDS Coalition will also have a Silent Auction to benefit those affected by HIV and AIDS. 

For more information about these events or to find out about events in your area, contact OSDH HIV/STD Service, HIV Prevention Training Specialist Amani Smiley, at (405) 271-4636.

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