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AIDS walk raises awareness about need for testing
September 22, 2011 Lisa Betz   

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AIDS Walk Nebraska volunteers take a break in the activities Sunday to pose for a photo. From left: Bill Mann, Marsha Hoisington, Lindsey Soule, Janet Soule, Cris Alfaro, Keaton Bell, case manager for Nebraska AIDS Walk Jil

Saturday was a glorious day for a walk. Participants of the AIDS Walk of Nebraska enjoyed the riverside pathway while also raising money to fund awareness programs about AIDS in Nebraska, specifically in the Panhandle. The climate has changed since HIV and AIDS became well-known terms creating widespread panic before much was understood about the disease.

Although AIDS and HIV has been around for awhile now, and more is known about how to protect oneself, people can still be at risk and be unaware of the dangers. Especially in a small town or rural area such as the Panhandle, there might be a sense that AIDS and HIV aren’t a problem in here.

Janet Soule, HIV and Hepatitis C program manager at CAPWN said the program sees approximately 200-250 cases a year but numbers have increased recently because there is a higher rate of patients moving here from other states. Soule said that the program has been unable to do as much outreach this year due to the higher number of diagnosed patients and those moving here from other places. “The high rates of cases keep us too busy to do outreach, and that is why this walk today is so important,” said Soule.

Soule also said that there are around 60-75 cases they are aware of here but there are also about three times that number who would test positive but do not seek CAPWN services. Soule stresses the importance of testing, even among those who feel safe in committed relationships.

“Not all cases are a result of (unprotected) male to male (sex,)” said Soule. Soule went on to explain that people engage in risk behavior for a variety of reasons. Some due to mental illness, IV drug use, and indeed, unprotected heterosexual sex. It only takes one partner in a committed relationship to make one bad decision to alter the lives of both people in the relationship.
As for the success of the AIDS Walk Saturday, case m
anager for Nebraska AIDS Walk Jill Young said on Monday, “We don’t have a final figure yet but our ballpark figure is right about $6,000.” Young said she was pleased by the turnout. “We had 142 people registered and a few babies in addition to that,” she said with a chuckle. “We’ll do a little better than that once more pledges come in during the next few days but that (amount) won’t be significant,” she said.

The funds are used to assist HIV and AIDS patients and their families in the form of travel vouchers, food assistance, car repair, telephone service, support groups and household items. Monies raised also support educational programs, adherence and advocacy and case management services.

Soule encourages everyone to schedule an HIV test through CAPWN by calling (308) 633-3264 or (308) 633-3309. “Tests are anonymous and confidential. By law, the result of a test cannot be released to anyone except the test subject,” she said.
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