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Youth center to promote HIV/AIDS awareness

BY KATIE HANSON | MARCH 9, 2009 7:27 AM

A week of events is using art to communicate the facts about an incurable disease.

While it is now common knowledge among medical professionals that HIV/AIDS infects all types of people, public awareness about the disease is less widespread.

“We think of Africa as the place where people get the virus, but we want people to realize it’s very real in this country,” said Kim Lamon, Teen Health Educator at United Action for Youth, 410 Iowa Ave.

This is part of the reason Lamon said she is organizing events at the center for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10.

Not knowing HIV’s risks and prevalence can have devastating consequences, Lamon said. She cited a 2004 Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report stating HIV/AIDS is the leading cause of death in black women aged 25-34 in the United States. In that year, the disease was also the fifth highest cause of death among all women in that age group.

The event’s biggest draw is two blocks of the AIDS Memorial Quilt, a product that has grown so large it could shelter a small city.

Before they are hung inside United Action for Youth, the 144-square-foot blocks had to be stored in a 4-foot box.

The quilt — and the ability to show it — is exciting, Lamon said, noting the center had to complete an application to show the quilt panels and needed a grant from the National Office of Women’s Health to bring it to Iowa City.

Started in 1987 to commemorate individuals who have died of AIDS, the quilt is now made up of 44,000 panels, and includes more than 91,000 names — most of whom are AIDS victims.

The Rhinestone Cowgirls, a youth-center teen girls’ group, will visit fifth- and sixth-graders at Wood Elementary to present a puppet show on basic HIV facts, and the members will also create mini quilt squares of their own.

On March 11, the center will also host a health fair and concert, featuring several high-school musicians. The health fair is a collaborative effort from United Action for Youth, the Emma Goldman Clinic, Planned Parenthood, ICare, and Johnson County Public Health.

“HIV is not just a so-called gay disease anymore,” said Eva Brummel, a regional educator at Planned Parenthood in Iowa City who is co-coordinating the fair. “We’re hoping that people’s mindsets will shift.”

Even though people know much more about HIV/AIDS than they did a few decades ago, she said, public-health educators have not reached their full audience.

“When it comes to HIV/AIDS and how it affects women, we have a ways to go,” she said. “I don’t think people know it affects heterosexual women — it’s the reason the CDC has this day.”
Brummel and Lamon are also contributing to today’s panel at the Iowa City Public Library, following a showing of the film Out of Control: AIDS in Black America.

Lamon said the panel, with participants from the Emma Goldman and ICare, will dispense even more information about resources for testing and treatment.

The event’s biggest effect will likely lie in letting women know where they can turn to for help.
“[In Iowa City], we’re so lucky when it comes to resources and education, but because there’s so many [organizations], it’s hard to know what’s out there,” Lamon said. “This will let people know what’s out there and who does what.”


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