BY: Melissa Colleary
For National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the Long Island Association for AIDS Care, Inc., Project ECHO (Educated Choices Healthy Options) grant, hosted a Red Pump and Red Tie Event aimed at creating a conversation surrounding women’s health and the rising rates of HIV infection among women, particularly those considered to be ethnic and racial minorities in low income areas. This year’s Red Pump and Red Tie Event was held at Brentwood Public Library which sits in the heart of a generally underserved minority community.
While traditionally the red ribbon is the symbol for HIV and AIDS awareness, for National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day, the red pump takes the place of the traditional awareness ribbon to celebrate and empower women while simultaneously providing education and resources. For this year’s event, LIAAC’s Project ECHO decided to add red ties as a way for men to join the conversation about women’s health.
This year’s Red Pump and Red Tie Event has been the most outstanding and impactful event with over 300 condoms distributed to 66 people within a four hour period. In addition to condom packs, we distributed informational pamphlets, condom keychains, safety flashlights, and safety whistles. Part of what made this event such a success was the help of several vendors, including: Five Towns Community Center; TriCare Systems; Hudson River Health; Long Island Harvest; Affinity Health; Long Island Against Domestic Violence; and the National Coalition for Negro Women: Suffolk Chapter.
Each of these organizations helped to provide the Brentwood community with resources and information on how to get enrolled in health care, get tested for HIV and STIs, obtain help in harmful situations, and find access to services that they may not have known were available. In a county where 32.9% of people living with HIV are women, as reported in 2013, it is extremely important to provide educational and preventative resources to help reduce the spread of the virus.
The National Coalition for Negro Women: Suffolk Chapter donated red velvet cupcakes which were used in this year’s Condoms and Cupcakes initiative which required participants to correctly demonstrate how to put on a condom or correctly answer three questions about sexual health to win a cupcake. As 44 out of the 66 encounters of the day were youths between the ages of 13 and 25, this initiative proved to be an invaluable resource in helping a community that experiences teen pregnancy rates that are 73% higher than Suffolk County’s average in 2013.
LIAAC also sponsored a social media campaign that asked participants to write down the reasons why they think it is important to know their HIV, Hep-C, and STI status as a way to reduce the stigma behind the conversation about sexual health in hopes of stopping further spread. The written responses were photographed and turned into a video using the app Flipagram and can be viewed at https://flipagram.com/f/lwrwGb32x1.
As part of this grant, we plan to host similar activities surrounding world, national, and prevention awareness days. See our Facebook page for more events at www.facebook.com/liaac.inc .
 New York State Department of Health. New York State HIV/AIDS County Surveillance Report (Includes State Prison Inmates) For Cases Diagnosed Through December 2013. Page 258. Table 1a
 Steve Bellone – Suffolk County Executive. Indices of Youth Needs in Suffolk County 2013. Office of the County Executive Suffolk County Youth Bureau. Page 11