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World AIDS Day Recap

The annual World AIDS Day ceremony was held in person for the first time since the emergence of COVID-19. The hybrid event was held at Church of the Crossroads in Moʻiliʻili on the evening of December 1. World AIDS Day was established in 1988 as the first global health day “to show support for people living with HIV and to remember those who have died from an AIDS-related illness.”

Governor David Ige declared December 1 “World AIDS Day” in Hawaiʻi. Mayor Rick Blangiardi did the same for the City & County of Honolulu. Governor-Elect Josh Green issued a video message in support those working in HIV prevention and care services.

The program featured hula by Frank Kaʻana Akima and his students, music by Hoku Award winners Kūpaoa, and performances by the Gay Men’s Chorus of Honolulu. After the ceremony, a reception with light refreshments in the church’s social hall, which featured a display of portions of the AIDS Memorial Quilt.

The Suzanne Richmond-Crum Award was presented to HHHRC Executive Director Heather Lusk. The Harm Reduction Services Branch of the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health established the award in 2004 in honor of the late director of the state’s Seropositivity and Medical Management program. Lusk oversaw the 2018 merger of Life Foundation, the stateʻs oldest and largest AIDS services organization, with The CHOW Project, which administered Hawaiʻi’s statewide syringe access program for over two decades.

Lusk began her work around HIV prevention in San Francisco in the 1990’s prior to the availability of antiretroviral medication that keeps those living with HIV from life-threating illnesses related to the virus. “I still hold those I knew during that period of time who lost their lives very close to my heart, and their memory informs the course of my life’s work to this day. Today is an opportunity to remember those we’ve lost, support those in our community who are living with HIV and at risk of contracting HIV and rededicate ourselves to moving toward a world without HIV,” she said.

“If you are living with HIV, sustained medical care and treatment can suppress your viral load to almost zero and help ensure that you are able to stay healthy and not pass the virus on to others. We are grateful to the Hawaiʻi State Department of Health for its decades-long commitment to HIV prevention and care services, including its support of a statewide syringe access program,” said HHHRC Clinical Services Director Nandi Ishikawa.

Another important tool to reduce the spread of HIV is pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP), a daily medication that prevents the transmission of HIV to persons who don’t have HIV but are at risk of contracting HIV through sex or injection drug use.

No-cost HIV testing and access to PrEP are available on an appointment basis at HHHRC’s Kakaʻako office.

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