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Silent, but not forgotten

2012-12-10T23:45:00Z 2012-12-12T00:02:21Z Silent, but not forgottenOMAR RICARDO AQUIJE -- oaquije@poststar.com Glens Falls Post-Star

QUEENSBURY -- Advanced treatment and a decline in death rates have led people to believe HIV is no longer serious, a misconception stressed Monday at SUNY Adirondack during a lecture on AIDS awareness.

The misconception has led to new infections as people have unprotected sex, according to speakers at the event.

“A lot of people in our area don’t realize it’s here,” said Melissa Thomas of North Country Ryan White Program.

The program provides medical care and support to people infected with HIV, along with free testing.

While treatments and proper care allow people with HIV to live long and productive lives, no cure for HIV or AIDS exists. Adding to the problem is that too many people know too little about the disease.

“It is ... like a silent disease nowadays,” Thomas said.

Lynn Scott, a SUNY Adirondack student who lost her brother to AIDS in 1985, helped organize the lecture.

She spoke about her brother, Shannon, who at 25 was the first person with AIDS to die at Glens Falls Hospital.

Scott spoke last year to a small audience at a similar lecture at the college. Monday’s event drew about a dozen people, including three students and a handful of faculty members.

Scott said she hopes others at the college continue to raise AIDS awareness.

“The college can play a role in spreading awareness,” she said.

Across the nation, one in five people living with HIV are unaware of their infection. Yet that 20 percent is responsible for 50 percent of new infections, Thomas said.

New York has the highest infection rate in the country and there are people in the Glens Falls region with HIV or AIDS.

The latest data, collected by Centers for Disease Control in 2009 and presented at the lecture, showed 151 people in Warren County had HIV or AIDS; in Washington County, it was 349; and in Saratoga County, it was 517.

In this region, many people believe HIV or AIDS has not arrived, and it is stigmatized, Thomas said.

“It’s still not as accepted as in other parts of the world,” she said.

The lecture included a speaker who called himself “Jonathan,” who is dating an HIV-positive man, but did not want to give his last name for fear it would affect his massage therapy business.

Jonathan said he has been tested for HIV and the results were negative, and he continues to take precautions to avoid infection. He encouraged people to be tested.

“Get it once a year if you indulge in risky behavior,” he said.

Speakers stressed people don’t die of AIDS. The disease attacks the immune system, so it is unable to fight off the slightest illness, including a cold, which then causes death.

HIV is spread through vaginal, anal or oral sex without using a condom. It can spread through sharing needles, and when blood comes in contact with blood infected with the virus.

It can also spread through breast milk, officials said.

It cannot spread through casual contact, being near an infected person or mosquito bites, they said.

Thomas said pharmacies sell tests to check for HIV. The Ryan White program (named after the first child to become infected with HIV) offers free tests every other Saturday at Hudson Headwaters Health Network in Glens Falls.

The test is also suggested to patients during regular doctor visits, Thomas said.

Terry Lawrence, a SUNY Adirondack professor, said more reminders are needed to educate the public about HIV and AIDS.

“It saddens me that we do forget,” Lawrence said. “It’s a forgotten illness now, and I don’t want that to happen.”

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(3) Comments

  1. sag
    Report Abuse
    sag - December 13, 2012 11:07 am
    I had a very close friend pass away from AIDS about 15 years ago. AIDS is very much alive all over and if people get out of the "stigma" of it being an "unmentionable" or "gay" disease and get the facts of how to protect oneself (including testing), we can all be safe. The only connection I can see between smoking and AIDS is people can die long, slow deaths from both if they do not protect themselves. By the way ... I am a former smoker who quit because a janitor in my building had a bad smoking habit and couldn't walk two steps without wheezing. It was awful.
  2. DWC121
    Report Abuse
    DWC121 - December 11, 2012 11:15 am
    Cigarettes - With smoking cigarettes, you don't have contact with another person. If you could contain the smoke to yourself, then I would agree with you.

    Gay Marriage - Straight married couples tend to have committed relationships. Gay married couples tend to have committed relationships. HIV and other STD problems multiply very quickly when you have multiple partners. Just imagine what would happen to the STD rate if straight people could not marry. And "Gay" marriage is not only for homos. Some senior citizens in assisted living facilities, who are widowed or widowers, are getting married to their roomates because they care about each other.
  3. feckerpead
    Report Abuse
    feckerpead - December 11, 2012 1:24 am
    Main cause in males contracting aids is anal sex, due to tearing of the anus and transfer through blood. Funny New York would worry so much about me smoking my cigarette and smile upon gay marriage. Don't get me wrong I don't care who you bed with but how is it much safer to condone such conduct when it can be caught in just one sitting so to speak rather than 40 years of smoking.

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