Miss Universe wants girls and women to know their HIV status

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Gabriela Isler practices what she preaches and has gotten tested for HIV.

Miss Universe 2013, Gabriela Isler, has been working to promote HIV/AIDS awareness and encourages girls and women to get tested. (AP Photo)

After being crowned Miss Universe 2013 in Russia, all eyes are on Gabriela Isler. Now, the 25-year-old Venezuelan beauty does not only want to be looked at, she also wants to be heard and is sending a message to women all around the world about their health.

“I’ve been doing a lot of work promoting HIV/AIDS awareness, not only in the U.S but throughout the world,” said Isler in an interview with VOXXI. “I urge young girls and women to get tested and to share knowledge about the disease, share it with your friends and with your family, with everyone…more women need to get tested.”

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), estimate 1.1 million people in the United States are currently living with HIV. Of those, one in four (about 25%) is a woman 13 or older, and what may be more shocking is that 27,000 women have HIV but do not know it.

SEE ALSO: “Who is more likely to delay HIV treatment?” 

Isler confides that although she doesn’t personally know anyone who has been infected with HIV or AIDS, she has developed a close connection with her Instagram followers who have been.

“I get a lot of feedback on Instagram from people who tell me ‘Thank you for being my voice’ or ‘Thank you for inspiring me to keep going’,” said Isler. “It’s a great feeling and in turn it motivates me to keep raising my voice about this issue.”

Isler wants to reduce HIV/AIDS discrimination

In the five months since winning the Miss Universe pageant Isler has been spending most of her time in New York learning about HIV and the consequences brought forth by the virus. She’s been getting specialized training on how to properly communicate information about the disease in order to reduce stigmas and discrimination.

Isler remembers growing up in Venezuela and hearing students in school refer to people infected with HIV as sidosos, a term she recalls as being derogatory and hurtful.

“Hearing that word, it made people panic,” she said. “It’s an adjective that shows how cruel society can be and I think it’s important to work hard to eliminate this kind of discriminatory language.”

Isler has also been active by visiting support groups for people living with HIV and volunteered at community centers where she helped serve dinner to AIDS patients.

Miss Universe gets tested and so can you

“National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day takes place in March,” said Isler.  “I’ve been a primary ambassador working with the Miss Universe organization to shed a light on the importance of women and girls getting tested.”

HIV skin prick test

A simple and quick skin prick test can give HIV results almost instantly to patients getting tested. (Australian Govt. Dept. of Foreign Affairs and Trade/Flickr)

In an attempt to practice what she preaches, Isler herself has gotten tested on more than one occasion.  Isler also notes the important role that parents play in the early HIV detection of their children and urges parents to foster open communication policies at home.

“I want to set a good example,” she said. “I want to show that there shouldn’t be a taboo when it comes to getting tested and if it happens that the test’s results come back positive it’s ok because there are adequate treatments.”

SEE ALSO: HIV prevent drug shows big promise

Gabriela Isler is a primary ambassador for HIV awareness.

Gabriela Isler has been training for five months to spread HIV/AIDS awareness and encourages women to get tested for HIV. (Courtesy of the U.S Department of Health and Human Services)

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