AIDS in Alaska
Saturday is World AIDS Day
ANCHORAGE - World AIDS Day will be recognized this Saturday. It’s a time to reflect on how far we have come in both treatment and detection of the disease, and how far we still have to go. Getting the message out about who’s at risk is still a very big part of preventing the disease, and one local organization is doing that for young people.
Alaska Youth Advocates runs the Teen Power Clinic located on the second floor of the bus depot in Downtown Anchorage. Teen Outreach volunteers hand out referral cards on the chilly streets directing young people to services they might need either at the clinic itself or other non-profits around town.
The Power Clinic offers a place to get warm off the streets, but also a lot more. Teens can get tested for STDs, including HIV. Pregnancy tests are available as well. They can talk to a counselor, a nurse or another teen. The idea is to provide a safe environment to broach what can be difficult subjects.
Alaska teens don’t have a high rate of HIV. In all of Alaska there were only about 60 new cases last year and most were in men with a median age of 31. But the risky behavior that teens often exhibit can make them vulnerable.
“The actual incidents of HIV infections in Alaska are fairly low,” said Herman. “But that presents its own problem because then you have teenagers and young adults thinking HIV isn’t really present in Alaska so it isn’t something we would worry about.”
It’s the kind of thinking Power Clinic is trying to turn around and it starts with a warm place where kids can feel safe, talking to their peers.