November 2000

The changing face of AIDS
By Greg Campbell

During the late '80s and early '90s, AIDS and HIV were in the forefront of our minds, as the names of victims were published daily in the obituaries. Newspapers and other media covered the horrifying statistics and published photos of young men whose bodies were literally void of life.

Today, however, the "face" of AIDS and PWAs (People Living With AIDS) has changed. Previously, the "face" was that of young males - many of them healthy until infected. Today the "face" is that of African-American females, of Latinos, of drug abusers, and of children. Children infected at birth are forced to endure the same drug regimens that many adults find too complicated and debilitating to follow.

Through December 1999, 733,374 AIDS cases had been reported to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Of these cases, 82 percent were among men, 16 percent were among women and 1 percent were among children less than 13 years of age. Forty-three percent of the 733,374 were white, 37 percent African-American, 18 percent Hispanic. Of the estimated 40,000 new HIV infections each year, greater than 50 percent occur among African-Americans.

Prevention and education are the keys to stopping the disease. If you are a parent, talk to your son or daughter. Wherever you are discussing abstinence and safe sex, do something . . . say something to your child. Unprotected sex is not the only danger. Drugs and alcohol abuse are key factors in the spread of AIDS. The more a person abuses drugs or alcohol, the higher his or her risk of infection. A person impaired by drugs or alcohol will not always make wise decisions. One night of over-indulgence could lead to pain, suffering and a shortened life. In some way, we have all been "touched" by HIV-AIDS - some more closely or more frequently than others. But we've all felt the pain and the fear.

On World AIDS Day December 1, thousands will come together to honor the memory of loved ones whose lives were cut short by HIV and AIDS. The Greenville community will hold a memorial service at Temple Beth Israel, 425 Summit Drive, at 7 p.m. The service is open to the public, and I hope many of you will take the time to participate and honor the memory of those who left us too early.

And please support the efforts of social workers who are out in the streets and communities offering free testing to our indigent population and who are visiting high-risk communities in an effort to educate our citizens and youth about the dangers of unprotected sex.

Pamphlets and other information are available from the local Red Cross or from AID Upstate. The World Wide Web has a wealth of information, responsibly presented, to help parents and youth learn about and discuss the topics of sexual responsibility - and dangers. (See www.iwannaknow.org)

Greg Campbell, coordinator for mass communications and events for the Furman Fund, is president-elect of AID Upstate, a non-profit organization whose mission is to assist citizens of Greenville, Oconee, Pickens and Anderson counties whose lives or families have been affected by AIDS.

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