HIV/AIDS: It ain't over 'til It's over ...

Posted: Thursday, December 02, 2010

... And this one is not over yet. Some will remember when we wondered if we would ever get beyond the smallpox epidemic. We did. Many of us have done battle with polio and now that is a rare scare in many parts of the world now.

HIV/AIDS isn't over yet. There are more than 33 million people in the world living with HIV/AIDS. Only 5.2 million of these people have treatment medicines - 16 percent of the total who need it. More than 2.5 million of these people are children. I'll repeat that - 2.5 million children, who are the future of the world and they were not asked about this involvement.

In the United States, 1.1 million people live with HIV. About every 9 minutes, a person in the United States is infected with HIV. Sadly, 21 percent of these people with HIV do not know they are infected.

In Alaska, about 1,300 people have been diagnosed with HIV since 1982. Over 69 percent of these people went on to develop AIDS and 50 percent of those with AIDS have died.

Who are these people? The top four groups of people are heterosexuals, intravenous drug users, men who have sex with men and sex workers. These are the facts.

Why does this matter to Alaska? Our ratios of new infections may seem relatively low. Consider this. People travel on planes, trains, buses and cars to meet with other people. Alaskans participate in their share of the intravenous drug use of the world. People of all persuasions are sexually active with other people - albeit often without protection. There is this revolving door of people in the Department of Corrections that leaves minimal options for people discharged from Corrections for help in their post-Corrections lives. It happens.

Twenty-one percent of our people with HIV do not know they are infected. The Center for Disease Control and Communicable Diseases recommends routine HIV screening for all persons 13-64 years old.

So, where can we go? Juneau Public Health, your primary health care provider, the Alaskan AIDS Association Assistance Program, the Front Street Clinic and SEARHC. There is diagnosis and treatment - and, yes, support is available.

What's a body to do? Think. Ask. Get tested. Get involved. Stay informed. It ain't over till it's over - and we can help each other.

carolyn Brown


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