Aids Awareness Day...A Reality Check for Young Adults

December 1, 2003--Posted at 6:51 p.m. CST

JONESBORO--December 1st is National AIDS Awareness Day. The disease is so widespread, it now claims the lives of five people every minute. In the state of Arkansas alone, there are more than 6,000 people who are HIV positive.

Debbie Biazo, the executive director of the Northeast Arkansas Regional Aids Network says that there is an increase in HIV in younger adults.
"We're seeing it here in northeast Arkansas here too...50 % of all new diagnosis are showing up in the age group 13-24....and 25% are 13-19. so we are talking junior high, high school and the first year of college...and that's when they are being diagnosed, that's not necessarily when they are becoming infected," said Biazo.

As the world celebrates AIDS awareness day, many young people are letting it go through one ear and out the other.

"This isn't a disease that's affecting individuals anymore, it's a disease that affecting family units," said Biazo.

Beth Thomas, RN Educator of ASU said, "young girls especially, become sexually active much earlier than they used to."
Officials report an increase in HIV cases in college-aged students. Some say it's a sign of prevention fatigue--or the idea that people can live with HIV.

And it's true...medicine can help people with HIV live longer these days...just look at Magic Johnson and Region 8's Dale Davis.

Davis has been effect with the disease for nearly 13 years. He contracted HIV while working as a hospice nurse.

"I got infected from a needle, and back then we didn't have the safety precautions that we have on needles today, which I wish we did back then. I don't hold any remorse against the job," said Davis cheerfully. "But it's sad to me, because so many younger kids becoming positive, I just don't know what the world is coming to today."

Davis was treating a 7-year-old boy infected with HIV when the child accidentally kicked a needle into Davis's hip. Immediately, three CC's of HIV positive blood poured into his body. Today takes about 50 pills a day to help him combat the disease.
Biazo says that a one month supply of medications for an HIV individual will run anywhere from eleven-hundred to fifteen-hundred dollars.

While the disease can be very costly in more ways than one...prevention and education can be pretty cheap.

For more information about HIV and AIDS testing, contact your local health department or the Northeast Arkansas Regional Aids Network at 888-245-AIDS.