Education is key on World AIDS Day - Hawaii News Now - KGMB and KHNL

Education is key on World AIDS Day

Paul Groesbeck Paul Groesbeck
Glory Guerpo Glory Guerpo

HONOLULU (KHNL) - Countries around the globe are observing the 21st World AIDS Day.

The aim is to create awareness, but also to end discrimination against those with the disease.

Here in Hawaii, there about 3,000 people who are living with HIV and AIDS.

Despite 25 years of education, the stigma surrounding the disease persists.

And that's exactly what the Life Foundation here in Hawaii is trying to change.

"There is no shame in getting tested. There is no shame in seeking treatment if you find yourself with HIV, but we have found people who are reluctant to do both and that has to stop," said Paul Groesbeck.

Groesbeck is the foundation's executive director. And he says a lot has changed in the sixteen years since he accepted the job.

"One change in Hawaii is the migration from the disease being strictly a white gay male disease to one that has affected the whole community," Groesbeck said. "At Life Foundation of our 700 or so HIV positive case management clients, 40 percent are Caucasian. More than half are local folks."

At this Oahu exhibit titled "Living positive in Hawaii," Glory Guerpo hopes to bring awareness through her photographs.

She documented people living with HIV on the Big Island.

"These people here that I met, all ten of them have just been amazing and beautiful," Guerpo told KHNL. "I've changed from having meeting them and having them tell me their stories."

Her mission now is to educate people in our state, where the number of of Asian, Pacific Islander and Hawaiian infections are going up.

"Learning about the disease: how one can contract it, how one can prevent it, but also learning that if someone has HIV here in the room, you can't just get it just by standing next to them, or shaking their hand or giving them a hug," said Guerpo.

The Life Foundation provides free HIV testing and services for those living with the disease.

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