Women and HIV in Maine 

There are more than twelve hundred people living in Maine with HIV. Even rural areas aren’t immune. Organizers of a panel discussion at Colby College Wednesday hope that by talking about it, they can help prevent more cases.”It’s fallen out of the headlines,” says Sean Douglas, with HealthReach Harm Reduction. “We don’t see red ribbons at the Oscars anymore.”But HIV isn’t going away, and there are people living with the disease all over the state.”Traditionally, I think people will think of HIV as something gay men get or injection drug users get. But women are the one of the fastest-growing groups that are contracting HIV in the U.S.,” says Eliza Quill, with HealthReach Harm Reduction. That’s why she says the focus of Wednesday’s panel discussion was women, living with HIV in Maine.”I thought my life was over,” says one panelist.”People just don’t realize it. Especially in Maine…we have 1243 people living with HIV in Maine – but that’s only the people who have tested positive in Maine,” Quill says.She estimates there are an additional three to four hundred people in Maine with HIV who don’t know they have it – and that’s cause for concern.”Because it tends to be the folks who don’t know what their HIV status is who will end us spreading it unknowingly,” Douglas says.Quill says there are more than 56,000 new infections in the U.S. every year. “A third of those are women, and half are under the age of 25,” she says.Organizers hope to de-stigmatize HIV, and promote safety first. They say a quick, 20-minute test can tell you your status.”It’s just an oral swab, we don’t do blood tests anymore,” Douglas says.They’re hoping that, by talking about it, they can get past what people use to think about HIV.”This notion that, it’s not in my family, it’s not in my neighborhood, it’s not in my community,” Douglas says, “when in all actuality it’s touching all aspects of Maine.”For more information and local resources, you can go to: