Group seeks kits for homeless
The safety kits are to help prevent the spread of diseases including hepatitis and HIV
A private group is trying to raise at least $1,000 to buy safety kits to give to homeless people to help prevent them from possibly spreading infectious diseases among each other.
The kits would include razors, toothbrushes, nail clippers, nail files, Band-Aids and, if they raise enough money, antiseptics, according to Ken Akinaka, executive director of the Hepatitis Prevention, Education, Treatment and Support Network of Hawaii.
The kits would be given to homeless people infected with hepatitis B, hepatitis C and HIV, Akinaka said.
He said Dr. Alan Tice, University of Hawaii infectious-disease specialist, tested four of the homeless staying at Central Union Church the night before they moved to a shelter set up by the state at a renovated warehouse at Pier 1 in Kakaako.
Two were positive -- one with hepatitis B and the other with hepatitis C, he said. When they were told the results, they said they had been sharing razors with others, Akinaka said.
"Apparently quite a few do that," he said, adding that they are trying to help each other. They did not know they could spread infectious diseases or become infected by sharing razors, he said.
"One person there was possibly infected with hepatitis C by sharing a razor to shave with since he had tested negative only a few months ago and does not appear to have other risk behaviors," Akinaka said.
Toothbrushes, washcloths and other personal care items that might have blood on them also should not be shared.
Akinaka said some people had given the homeless hygiene kits, but they did not include razors. "They were more about hygiene than spreading infection. We have to educate them about disease and disease prevention and give them tools so they are able to not share."
Vaccine is the best protection for hepatitis B, but there is no vaccine for hepatitis C.
Nova Lei Gonzales, special-projects director for the "Help Save a Life -- Safety Kits for the Homeless/Houseless Campaign," said the safety kits will be distributed at the Pier 1 homeless shelter July 28.
The organization will hold a free cultural entertainment and health educational event for the people there, he said.
"It's very important that as a community we support those that are houseless, to help prevent, educate and treat those with hepatitis B and C, as well as HIV-AIDS," Gonzales said, asking for public "kokua."
He said similar projects are planned for the homeless on the Leeward Coast and at other shelters.
Tax-deductible checks may be sent to OPIVITA, 5641 Kalanianaole Highway, Honolulu 96821. The federal identification number, or FIN, is 91-1532096.
Tice, UH associate professor of medicine, established OPIVITA as a nonprofit organization dedicated to the prevention, education, treatment and research of infectious diseases of the poor and homeless.
For more information, call Gonzales at 783-NOVA or Akinaka at 221-6204.