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World AIDS Day 2013 on Sunday

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by Krystal Paco

Guam - This weekend it's time to educate and celebrate. As Sunday marks World AIDS Day 2013, people around the world will unite in the fight against HIV by showing their support for those living with the sexually transmitted disease and commemorate those who have passed from it.

"What we're all about is uplifting the human spirit and identifying those causes in the various communities and our islands and in our region that require attention - unmet needs - and one of the areas that we feel still needs to be developed is the prevention of HIV and STDs not only in Guam but throughout the Micronesia islands," said WestCare Pacific Islands vice president Sarah Thomas Nededog. She said we have one of the highest rates of STDs in the region, and that's why there's plenty of work ahead to get to zero - that is, creating an HIV-free generation.

According to the March 2013 Department of Public Health and Social Services HIV/AIDS Case Surveillance Report, between 2003 and 2012, 92 cases of HIV/AIDS were diagnosed and reported locally - that's an incidence rate of close to 6% per 100,000 population.

Of that population, Pacific Islanders dominate the races at close to 70%.

In that same report, most were a result of male-to-male sexual contacts.

To help get these numbers down to zero, WestCare project coordinator Kelly Jensen says this year, they're focusing their outreach efforts to educating the island's youth. "I think its education understanding what your risk factors are having access to condoms and knowing what is safe sex or not having sex at all. Knowing the people that you're participating in risky behaviors with knowing what their status is all those things contribute in getting to zero and decreasing our STD rates on Guam," she said.

Sunday's festivities include a mass at Santa Terisita Church in Mangilao at 8 a.m., an exhibit at the Guam Premier Outlets all day, and a candlelight vigil from 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. at the WestCare offices in Tamuning.

For more information, visit the WestCare Pacific Islands Facebook or call their offices at 472-0218/9.

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