Preventing HIV takes many strategies. One strategy is called PrEP or Truvada, a daily pill that reduces the risk of HIV by ~90% when taken correctly. If you need more information on PrEP, finding a health care provider to perscribe it to you, or help paying for PrEP, call the Jefferson County Public Health clinic at 303-239-7078 for assistance. Check out this video for more information!
According to the annual report released by The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) Division of HIV/AIDS Prevention HIV rates have decreased among both men and women and among African Americans and Latino populations.
The report highlights a number of key trends for 2010-2014, including the following:
The annual numbers and rates of HIV diagnoses decreased overall and among both women and men
HIV diagnosis rates decreased among African Americans, Latinos and whites
HIV diagnosis rates increased among people ages 25 to 29, remained stable among those ages 20-24, and decreased among other age groups
The annual number of diagnoses attributed to male-to-male sexual contact remained stable, while the number
attributed to heterosexual contact or injection drug use decreased
The annual number and rate of deaths of persons with diagnosed HIV decreased
HIV prevalence reached an all-time high; at the end of 2014, more than 955,000 people were living with diagnosed
While trends in HIV diagnoses are influenced by testing rates, and may not always reflect trends in actual HIV transmission, the declines seen in this report suggest that national HIV prevention efforts are paying off, while signaling the urgent need for intensified prevention among young people and men who have sex with men.
In a continuing effort to decrease HIV and Hepatitis C transmission in the county, Jefferson County Public Health opened the newest approved syringe exchange program in Colorado joining locations in Boulder County, Denver Metro, Fort Collins, Pueblo and Grand Junction.
The new program, named Points West, is a harm reduction program committed to stopping the spread of HIV and Hepatitis C among people who inject drugs in Jefferson County. Points West is located at the Jefferson County Public Health clinic, 645 Parfet Street in Lakewood. Syringe exchange services are available Monday through Friday, 8:00 AM- 5:00 PM. No appointment is necessary and services are free and confidential to all participants of the program. For more information about Points West Syringe Access Program call the Jefferson County Public Health department at 303.232.6301.
Knowledge is massive power in the fight against HIV infection and transmission. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the vast majority of persons who know that they are infected with HIV do not transmit the virus to others. One of the reasons for the decline in HIV transmission: improved HIV testing. Knowledge is power. Jefferson County Public Health offers no charge, confidential HIV testing and counseling at its Lakewood clinic, 645 Parfet Street. Please call 303 239 7078 to make an appointment today. For more information or to talk with a public health nurse, please contact Kelly Conroy, 303-239-7121.
The blue sky will always overwhelm me with a sense of power and possibility, with the intensity of its blueness opening up my mind to experiences and feelings and emotions that were somehow denied the incredibleness of existence. Opening yourself up to the blue sky and making yourself vulnerable to the frightening possibilities of eternity can put you at the very edge of your compass in a serendipitous place that allows for the free flowing forces of cosmic energy and the powerful exuberance of the universe to intercede and interact on your behalf.
Living in Colorado most of my life, I think that the blueness of the sky became a background for a context of living daily life, a default for the semingly unending existence of day in and day out. Colorado has plenty of blue sky and sunshine, even during the bleak of the winter season, and so the mind integrates that into the fabric of our daily lives. We don't notice the subtle power of the blue sky and the sensitivity of our vision has become so numb to the impact that we can't even comprehend the possibility of what the sky opens up to us and within us.
The first time that I realized the tremendous impact of the blue sky on my life was a time when I was riding my bicycle down a lonely, dusty dirt road in Uganda, a country located in east Africa. The magnetism of my destination pulled me desperately along the road, as I looked down at the dust forlornly being pulled up by the tires on my bike and occasionally glanced backward to check the distance and to calculate how far I had come since my last glance backward only a minute ago. It wasn't very far. The Elephant Bush, or what I thought was Elephant Bush, along the sides of the road had grown so high that the leaves seemed to be waving in the wind, the tips sharply piercing the sky as they moved back and forth in a rhythm that forced me to stop and to get off my bike and listen.
With the sweat dripping off of my face like tears, I started to walk along the dirt road and my eyes followed the long, sinewy Elephant Grass to the tips of the everlasting blue. It was a supreme moment when my heart flowed openly, freely, and indeterminately into the blue open space in front of me, juxtaposed so eloquently with the green of the earthy grass. I had physically stopped my body with the swirling dust embracing me, but the more I looked into the blue sky, the more I was awakened to the sense of a new dimension where impossibility and possibilty were melded into one distinct and overwhelming feeling of awe. Embraced by the blue, I envisioned the life of my dreams created and reincarnated in a cycle of infinite possibility with the texture and feel of an existence that was beyond existence.
Maybe I was feeling particularly unusual that day, maybe it was the intensity of the African sun, maybe it was the dry dirt that covered my skin like dried cocoa, but the intersection of my emotions with the blue sky happening at that single instant of solitude while walking my bicycle down the lonely dirt road forever changed my life in a way that nothing else really has. It wasn't only the experience of becoming fully aware of the beauty of the universe that changed the way that I envisioned my life in the world, but it was most significantly the tortuous act of becoming vulnerable to the incredibleness the blue sky symbolized to me. The exhilaration of the energy that routed itself within my body elevated me to such great height that everything, even my hopes and dreams, were transformed from the incomprehensibly impossible to the magnificent miracle of being born.
My wish for you and for everyone is the wish for a great expanse of blue sky, extending beyond the horizon of your limitations and crippling beliefs about how your life should be or who you should become. For me, the blue sky will always remind me of that day in Uganda when the sky unfurled before me the insight that possibility and potentiality were powerful forces in the movement of my life. When you are no longer afraid of the unimaginable depth of the blue, then you can begin to see the beautiful creations that infuse your life with love and positive energy everyday.
So, now it's time to stop being afraid of the blue sky; it's time to stop being afraid of learning about yourself; it's time to stop being afraid of the "what if's" and the possibilities. Learning about your HIV status doesn't have to be a frightening experience, nor does it have to decimate your possibilities, your dreams, your hopes. Just take a look at the blue sky....
I can't tell you the last time that I received a Valentine's Day gift or a card for that matter. I think I still might have a crinkled old Valentine's Day greeting card from my elementary school years tucked in my scrapbook somewhere, folded and worn with time with a picture of a faded red heart imprinted on some cheap stationery. Those were the days when the teacher made everybody in the class distribute Valentine's Day cards to everybody else in the class, and we got to decorate white paper lunch bags to receive all the mail that day. We even got Valentine's Day cards from our teachers with big red hearts that exclaimed: "I'm so HAPPY that you are in my class!" with handwritten notes of encouragement and pieces of sweet chocolate.
The obligatory notes of professions of love wore off as soon as the cards were opened to peek at who sent the card. It was over in a matter of seconds before you tore open the next one to see if there might be candy hearts in the envelope with a secret message just for you. I particularly didn't like the taste of the candy hearts, but I sure did enjoy reading the sweetness of the messages. We all had school crushes, but with my crushes, I knew they never would come true. And, in elementary school, who really cared because everybody celebrates Valentine's Day. Everybody gets a card. Everybody gets treats. Everybody goes home with white bags decorated with hearts overfilling with the day's promises of love and friendship.
But, eventually you learn the hard truth (or what you come to believe is the hard core truth)...Valentine's Day isn't about giving everybody in class cheap generic greeeting cards with a piece of candy attached and having a party that means a free afternoon from studying and doing worksheets. Middle School was the brutal awakening for me when I first experienced the assualt of having a Valentine's Day without anybody giving me a card or tasteless candy hearts with love notes inscripted across the middle. We didn't have Valentine's Day parties like we did in elementary school. Only girls who had boyfriends got cards and candy and flowers and love. The rest of us rotted in the corner struggling with the nightmare of not getting anything from anybody on Valentine's Day.
I know that Valentine's Day is about love. I've always known that...even in middle school when I was hoping that my crush would give me hearts, and all I got was a shallow "what's up". But, time has a way of healing the past, making you more experienced, enhancing your perspective, and making you stronger for the journey. In high school, I had another brutal awakening about Valentine's Day, and it was almost as radical as the one I had in middle school. I have to thank my girlfriends (seriously, friends of mine who were female) for this burst of light they brought into my dark corner of the world. I realized those same people who got the kisses on February 14 were throwing those kisses away on February 15 or a week later. Those cards so treasured and framed on February 14 were ripped into tiny pieces with such hatred and bitterness that they burned a hole right through the big red hearts, bleeding with emotional intensity. I don't know how many times, how many stories, how much drama I had to go through with my friends over a Valentine's Day card. I realized quite quickly, that the loved ones quickly became the hated ones, and it became trivial to see how many people came and went out of each other's lives.
That's when I broke into the truth that nobody can love you the way you love yourself. Nobody can give you a Valentine's Day card with a big red heart like the one you can give yourself. Nobody can know how strong, confident, adorable, and loveable you are like you know yourself. You don't need a card from someone else to know how valuable you are. You don't need Valentine's Day chocolates to know how sweet you are. You don't need roses on Valentine's Day to know how beautiful you are. You don't need somebody else's love on Valentine's Day, you need your love!
And, part of loving yourself is taking care of yourself. Making sure your health is the priority in your life shows that you love yourself enough to take care of yourself. Getting tested for HIV, especially if you've been thinking about it for a long time, can show how much you love yourself on Valentine's Day. You deserve to be strong, healthy, insightful, and life strong. Make yourself a huge Valentine's Day card on February 14, and inside the card write: "I love myself enough to get tested for HIV and to know my HIV status". Nobody else can give you a more passionate and beautiful love note on Valentine's Day.
I had a plan on New Year's Eve. I knew exactly what had to be done. I was thinking about my plan all day on December 31, and I even discussed my plan with fellow co-workers who committed to the same idea. We were dedicated in our insight to make this next year happen with earthquake changes in our lives...and it all was going to start on New Year's Eve with a big plan.
I told everyone I knew about my plan for New Year's Eve: staying home, watching a movie, popping some corn, lighting some candles, and most importantly and dramatically, writing out a life plan. At the stroke of midnight, instead of a notebook of goals, resolutions, changes, and detailed plans, I looked down at my blank page and then looked at the clock. It wasn't the only the beginning of a new day, but the beginning of a whole new year. And, so far, I had nothing written down to start the day with.
This was a grand idea, but when I look back on my ambition to write out goals and resolutions that required extraordinary actions on my part to make incredible changes in my already complicated life, I realized that the change is in the small things. It made me think that big changes rarely happen without the baby changes we make everyday. It's one day at a time, living in the moment, being present in the now, making the change for that instant second that results in the dramatic effect in our lives.
Looking back on my New Year's Eve experience, I think I am beginning to understand what appreciating the moment is all about. Reflecting on what is happening in the present moment can also be a meditative way to start out the new year while embracing the life time experiences of the past year.
I know many people who make New Year's resolutions that enhance their appearance by trying to commit to unrealistic diet plans and fantastically outrageous exercise plans. Don't worry! I'm not about to recommend some impossible goal for you. All it takes is for you to be present in the now and take the appropriate action. Getting tested for HIV can be frightening and intimidating for some people, but knowing your HIV status can put you in the driver's seat and back in control of your life. Taking advantage of the opportunity to know more about your health and accessing resources to help you build a better life is what knowing about HIV status is all about. Quitting smoking, starting to exercise, decreasing alcohol intake, eating a more balanced diet are all great goals, but taking an HIV test is something you can do right now, in the present, to change your life for the better.
Learn something about yourself today...make the change today...get tested today....know your HIV status today. Start changing your life today.