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AIDS Community Resources pushes HIV/AIDS prevention for women

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AIDS Community Resources is encouraging girls and women to become educated about HIV/AIDS in celebration of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on Sunday.

Awareness and prevention of the disease may start, but shouldn’t stop, there for females, according to Julia M. Marino, ACR’s women’s program prevention health advocate.

“In some of the activities included all over the nation is information on how to prevent HIV/AIDS, to get more women and girls tested and to provide services to those living with the disease,” she said. “We’re really promoting to get people tested. It’s the only way to know.”

According to the state Department of Health’s most recent statistics, there were 954 new HIV cases diagnosed in women throughout the state in 2010. As of December 2010, there were 78, 26 and 72 men and women living with the disease in Jefferson, Lewis and St. Lawrence counties, respectively.

In honor of National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, AIDS Community Resources staff members will host awareness events from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m. today at the Fort Drum Main Exchange, 2 to 4 p.m. at the Salmon Run Mall and 9 to 11 p.m. at Crazy Legs Saloon, 536 Arsenal St.

Safe sex supplies will be available, as will fliers and pamphlets with information on ACR programs and services. Mrs. Marino said staff members will help debunk myths, including how HIV/AIDS is contracted.

“It’s really blood-borne or exchanged through sexual fluids,” she said. “A lot of young girls think, ‘It’s not going to happen to me,’ but it’s here. We want to reduce the risks of it being more prevalent.”

AIDS Community Resources offers additional help for women at risk of getting the disease through its Project HERRS, or Health Education and Risk Reduction Services, program.

Project HERRS offers sexual risk reduction counseling and case management; HIV/AIDS testing; referrals to help participants meet basic needs, such as food, shelter, Medicaid and social service assistance, and a six-session group self-esteem empowerment program. Follow-up support also is provided.

“We like to break down barriers for women who may be at risk, such as low-income women, or those in unstable housing,” Mrs. Marino said. “It teaches women how to take charge of their life and sexual safety.”

Women who complete the six-session group will receive a $40 Walmart gift card. For more information on Project HERRS, or to join an upcoming group, call Mrs. Marino at 785-8222, ext. 156.

AIDS Community Resources, which is based in Syracuse and covers Cayuga, Herkimer, Jefferson, Lewis, Madison, Oneida, Onondaga, Oswego and St. Lawrence counties, will also host a women’s support group Thursday in Watertown. The time and location will be announced as people preregister for the program, which will provide popcorn and a viewing of the movie “Life Support” about a woman living with HIV.

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