By the end of 2010, there were over 4,000 cases of HIV/AIDS in Hawaii, and of those cases, many have passed away, their spot replaced by another infection. HIV/AIDS no loner gets consistent or dramatic news headlines but is still a very serious issue worldwide and here in Hawaii. Through better medication and treatment of this disease, HIV and AIDS have taken on a different face than the images we once associated with it. People in the late eighties and early nineties had little hope of surviving and endured horrible opportunistic infections until they passed away. Today, those who are HIV positive can now have relatively normal life spans, children, and careers. While this is a testament to how far medicine has come, it has created a perception that HIV is less threatening than it once was and perhaps its ok to stop talking about it. But there still misinformation; still new infections; still those who wont get tested or take the steps to protect themselves or others. But who will help on Kauai? When will we see an end to HIV/AIDS here and abroad? Who will educate our youth? We have 30 years of HIV/AIDS yet for the past 10 years, we have seen little change in the infection rates. When will we make the change? Now? If not now, When?
We have been working to dispel these misconceptions of HIV/AIDS with the Condom Sense radio commercials of Malama Pono Health Services wherein we tell the island to use condoms, to get them from us and to embrace the idea that there is “no shame in taking care.” Malama Pono is looking to make a difference and end HIV and AIDS for future generations. We believe it is paramount to educate our youth and to teach them how to make healthy decisions when it comes to sex, relationships and HIV. In fact, we will be at Kauai High this week to educate local high school students, as well as being sensitive to those who are already living with HIV. Eventually, we are looking to expand our educational efforts to all of the high schools, in an attempt to make HIV prevention and education common knowledge to our youth.
Malama Pono staff believes in fact based education. In this effort, staff has taken on a new curriculum, the TAP Program, which stands for Teens for AIDS Prevention. This is a peer education program that looks to teach a group of youth, ages 14–22, about HIV prevention through coursework and interactive learning. In turn, these students will look to be leaders in the community, sharing what they know with other youth. We know that sometimes sex questions are hard to ask parents or adults, so this allows for another avenue of HIV education and prevention, peer to peer.
The era of HIV and AIDS is still upon us. It is the job of everyone to protect our youth and our community. Malama Pono is looking forward to educating our island youth to be peer educators and leaders in our community. It is our hope that in learning to make healthier choices, the youth of Kauai will lead healthier lives, overall. The answer to when, is now.