The Siouxland AIDS Coalition recently "reconfigured" and began to meet again.
"There is a need for continued education and awareness," said Elisabeth Giles with the Siouxland Community Health Center. "Although there are medical advances, there is no cure for AIDS."
The Siouxland Community Health Center is involved only as a member of the coalition, Giles clariifed.
"We work with representatives from other agencies as well as volunteers and leaders within the community," she said.
Giles became involved in restarting the Siouxland AIDS Coalition because she saw a need in the community.
"People were asking questions such as: 'HIV? That isn't still around, is it?' and 'I don’t need to get tested because it doesn't affect me,'" she said. "We are still encountering stigma around the disease which often leads to people not getting tested or not thinking that they are at risk."
HIV affects everyone, Giles pointed out.
"Currently, the Coalition is working together to provide the community with education and resources pertaining to testing, prevention and treatment," she said. "Although we do not have officers, we do meet quarterly to discuss updates in programs, legislation and to support each other."
Giles appreciates the energy and commitment the coalition exemplifies.
"You have to have that to change the future," she said. "Idealistic, I know, but I do believe that you have to have the hope in order to create it."
Giles became involved in HIV work to honor her best friend's parents who died early in the epidemic.
"At that time, there was so much stigma and a lack of general education as to transmission methods that people who were positive had asterisks on their gurneys and doctors were double gloving," she said. "I remember thinking how horrible that was, that even the lack of human touch, or a guarded touch, can quell someone's spirit. Her parents have been gone since 1991. Twenty years later, this is still my life's goal."