By Leland Kim
HONOLULU (KHNL) - About 3,000 people in Hawaii have HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. While that number is relatively low compared to the rest of the country, it's going up.
Fernando is an AIDS educator. He's also HIV-positive.
"I have been positive since 1988," he said.
He's part of an effort to reach out to Asians, Pacific Islanders and Native Hawaiians. The number of cases for members of those groups jumped 34 percent between 1999 and 2003. Experts say it's "a silent population at risk."
"The virus has no ethnicity," said Laarni Flores, an HIV/AIDS case manager for the Life Foundation. "It has no race. It has no color."
Experts say using condoms is still the best way to protect oneself from HIV.
"If you don't take proper precautions, take preventive measures, then it can happen to anybody," said Flores.
Honolulu joins nine other U.S. cities in recognizing National Asian and Pacific Islander HIV/AIDS Awareness Day.
Fernando said finding out his HIV status early on, has kept him alive.
"Especially now that there's so many options for treatment, the sooner you know your status, the sooner you can take care of it," he said.
He says getting tested is important, not only for yourself but also for your partners.
"It's always better to know than not to know," said Fernando. "Again, take care of the people you love."