Sage Kiernan-Sherrow | News Editor
HIV has a long history of stigmatization throughout the nation. Partnering with Abby’s House on campus, HIVAlliance came to Western Wednesday, Nov. 20, “to discuss the current status of HIV in Oregon, how HIV is spread and not spread, and ways to prevent HIV, including PrEP,” according to Keith Mathews, a Western Alumni and current PrEP Coordinator for the Northern Region of Oregon.
According to HIVAlliance’s website, hivalliance.org, PrEP stands for Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis, “a medication taken daily that can be used to reduce the likelihood of HIV infection by preventing the virus from taking hold and spreading throughout the body,” which, “can reduce the risk of sexually acquired HIV by more than 90% and can reduce the risk of HIV among people who inject drugs by more than 70%.”
HIVAlliance helps to educate the public about PrEP, as well as helping PrEP users navigate insurance, providers and financial support services. Additionally, HIVAlliance operates under a harm reduction philosophy which “seeks to empower individuals, remove barriers to accessing the support that they need, and offer pragmatic approaches to risk reduction in a non-judgmental/non-coercive way, that is compassionate and accepting of any positive change,” according to hivalliance.org.
Prior to the presentation, Mathews reached out to Abby’s House himself, saying that, “I knew their missions overlapped with our mission at HIVAlliance to educate about HIV and prevention. In my four years at WOU I heard very little about HIV apart from a few events highlighting awareness so I thought it would be a wonderful opportunity to start that conversation at WOU.”
He added that, “despite the perception of lessened stigma around HIV, there is still a lot of misinformation around HIV which continues the stigma to this day. The best way to receive correct information is to find medically accurate and correct information on HIV and talk to people, especially sexual partners, about HIV status and testing.”
Currently, there are various organizations which offer STI and HIV testing, including Western’s own Student Health and Counseling Center. Polk County Public Health, Marion County Health and Human Services, HIVAlliance and Planned Parenthood all offer testing within the community.
For more information, visit hivalliance.org.
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