HIV/AIDS community grows on Guam
by Krystal Paco
Guam - An estimated one in three Asian and Pacific Islanders are living with HIV and don't even know it. And with this weekend marking National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness, it's important to get tested. But how to cope if you come back positive?
Westcare Pacific Islands now has support groups for those affected by the sexually transmitted disease.
Are you positive you're negative? As WestCare Pacific Islands vice president Sarah Thomas-Nededog reports, the spread of HIV and AIDS is a growing concern locally. "We're very concerned about the numbers we have nearly 50 people that are currently diagnosed with AIDS or HIV and we've had nine recent cases in the last year and a half. We're especially concerned that HIV and AIDS spreads especially as we anticipate more people coming to Guam in the coming years, I think we need to do our due diligence as a community to make sure we prevent the spread of AIDS or HIV and other communicable diseases on our island," she said.
To cater to this growing population, WestCare now offers support groups. She said, "We're really excited that we're able to now offer our community family support groups for those who have family members who are afflicted with AIDS or HIV, as well as those whose family members are at most risk of having this disease. So we started a group last week and we'll have one every week until August, and then we'll reevaluate it."
Nededog says support groups provide families and friends with information on how to help. After all, it's not just the person with the virus affected, but their friends and families. "There's some very practical challenges that family members have who are dealing with a member in their household or someone who lives close by who has AIDS and HIV. And there are practical things like what is it that they need to be eating how are they best cared for - what is it that we can do to ensure that they stay healthy, how can we help support them stay on their medication regimen, and also what are some things that we can do as a family to ensure there is not a spread of AIDS or HIV in our household or in the community," she said.
Support groups also provide emotional and social support. Groups meet at the Guahan Project located on the third floor of the Core Pacific Building across Tamuning Elementary School. Meetings rotate on Saturdays at 9 a.m. or Tuesdays at 6 p.m. For more information call 472-0218 or 0219.