December 7, 2012
Faculty members at the University of Rhode Island are helping people learn their HIV status and preventing them from transmitting the disease. In honor of World AIDS Day, December 1, Annie Kosar, coordinator of the LGBTQ Programs and Services at the LGBTQ Center, and her team gave free HIV testing at the Center. Also, confidential testing will continue in Room 111 of Adams Hall from 35 p.m. on the first Wednesday of each month to raise awareness of AIDS on campus and provide testing for any student who wants it. AIDS Project Rhode Island and Naomi Thompsonchief diversity officer and vice president of community, equity, and diversity at the universitywere present at the opening of the event. In her address, Thompsonwho oversees the Office of Affirmative Action and Equal Opportunity, the Multicultural Center, the Women's Center, and the LGBTQ Centersaid that she hoped to spread awareness and create a more welcoming and inclusive environment where people appreciate and understand differences.
AIDS Project Rhode Island provided facts and statistics about unprotected sex and the rates of sexual intercourse involving adolescents in the state. The presenters said Rhode Island ranks first among the six New England states in teen birth rates among 15 and 19 year-olds. Approximately 29 births out of 1,000 in the state are in this age group, making the state second to Maine, which has 26 births per 1,000.
Statistics show that among communities of color and injecting drug users, the rate of HIV infection has decreased 66 percent and 89 percent respectively, but has increased 100 percent among gay and bisexual men. Also, Massachusetts has experienced a 48 percent decrease in new HIV infections since 2000, dropping from 1,192 to 622 per year, while Rhode Island has had a 16 percent decrease in the same time period, remaining at about the same level of 126 to 106.
Thompson announced that $1.5 million has been dedicated to the construction of a free-standing LGBTQ Center and praised the levels of commitment of the president, the university leadership, and the provost. The event organizers urged individuals who think they may be infected to get tested so that they can begin treatment.