Vibrant quilt designs and informational posters spread across the auditorium floor for the School District of Philadelphia’s 20th annual World AIDS Day Commemoration program honored several student artists and writers on Dec. 1 at Benjamin Franklin High School.
The artwork and essays were created by middle and high school students who participated in the art and literacy contest to highlight HIV prevention. This year’s theme was to focus on “Getting to Zero, Zero New HIV Infections, Zero Discrimination and Zero AIDS Related Deaths.”
In seventh grade, the art contest winners — in order from first, second and third place — are Lisa Nguyen, Ashlee Valle and Tommy Duong of Conwell Middle School.
“I never actually met anyone with HIV, but I drew what lessons I learned from the assignment. I know that AIDS can’t choose who [it] wants to hop onto. You should stick to abstinence, so you don’t get AIDS. So I just interrupted that into my artwork,” Nguyen said.
Eighth-grade art winners were Jahara Rushman, Lisandra Santiago-Roberto and Maciej Pryzloos of Conwell Middle School.
“Actually, it was hard for hard me because I’m not that creative, but I know somebody that has HIV, so that helped me create the piece,” Santiago-Roberto said.
Ninth-grade art winners were Brace Garrett, Nyaa Lino and Kenyetta Taylor of Communications Technology High School. Tenth grade winners were Khadijah Gardner, Phylia Brewer and Princess Jackson from Communications Technology High School.
Eleventh-grade art winners were Ebone Bryant of Germantown High School, Kevin Norris of Dobbins High School, and Neale Brooks of Germantown High School. Dazha Bethel of Carver High School received honorable mention.
The senior class art winners were Leander Berry, Sierra Blagmon and Matisse Hill of Parkway West High School.
Along with the art contest, there were several literary contest winners. The ninth-grade winners — in order from first, second and third place — are Jade Truehart, Teasia Squire and Kanae’ Taylor of Carver High School.
Sakinah Braxton, tenth grade, and Makkah Hayes, eleventh grade, of Carver High School were literary contest winners. Twelfth-graders Brittany Williams, Zana Johnson and Erin Don Pailin of Parkway West High School won, too.
Brochure winners were Amy Vo, Natwain Francis and Donte’ Traynham of Communication Technology High School.
Winning students received certificates and a calendar in honor of HIV/AIDS prevention that was designed by students in the printing class at Dobbins High School.
The program included remarks from Lafayette Sanders, 24, who was prenatally infected and is living with HIV. At the age of 13, a few months after his mother passed, Sander’s grandmother took him to the doctor’s office for a checkup. The doctor then informed him that he was HIV positive.
“I became angry at myself, at my mother, I was even angry with God. Why am I dealing with this? I didn’t ask for this. This wasn’t my choice,” Sanders said.
Now, as an advocate, Sanders speaks to teens about his life experiences of growing up as a teen, having to take several pills daily and urges youth to use preventative and protective methods during sex.
“Currently, I’m only taking four pills once a day. These four pills keep me healthy so that I can live a long, productive life. I’m here today to remind you guys that just because someone has the disease, they can live a healthy full productive life,” Sanders said.
Other remarks were made by Leroy Nunery, School District acting CEO and superintendent, representatives from Family Planning Council of Southeastern Pennsylvania and American Red Cross.
Sterlen Barr, CEO and founder of Rapping About Prevention, did a special presentation to students as he rapped about a man he knew who had HIV.
Following this presentation, the Northeast High School Choir sang a hymn, as teacher and faculty members of the district lit several candles in honor of students who have died from HIV/AIDS over the past 20 years.
The event ended with a special dance performance from “Special ‘Efx.” This group of four young men break dance, even dance ballet, to popular dance tunes in a way to positively motivate other young people.
The students’ art work was displayed at the University of Pennsylvania for another event commemorating World AIDS Day, but the final destination for the art work will exhibit in the School District Education building.
Laws in many states criminalize those with HIV/AIDS who fail to disclose their status to their partners.
This was the message of a prograFm by the U.S. Positive Women’s Network held recently at the William Way Community Center in Center City.
AIDS activists, lawyers and several organizations were united in their efforts to halt legal discrimination against those living with the disease.
“We have been planning this event since the HIV/AIDS conference in July, because this topic came up several times at the convention,” said Waheedah Shabazz, an HIV/AIDS activist.
Shabazz said the International AIDS Conference as historic in that it was the first time in 25 years that it has been held in the United States.
“It was a human rights victory just having the International AIDS Conference in the U.S., since the U.S. has had a ridiculous travel ban on the arrival of people with HIV on its borders,” she said.
Shabazz said it was President Barack Obama who overturned the travel restrictions, making it possible for the conference to be held in the States.
During the conference, the stigma facing people with AIDS was raised repeatedly. This was the motivation for the Nov. 19 HIV/AIDS Criminalization forums, according to Shabazz.
“The Center for HIV Law and Policy has gone around the country hosting state –by-state forums about the new wave of non-disclosure laws around HIV/AIDS,” said Shabazz who emphasized that such laws make it illegal in some circumstances to fail to disclose one’s HIV status to others.
“It’s a very discriminatory practice because it affects poor people and people of color [disproportionately],” she said. “There’s no one way to implement this law, so certain people are receiving excessive punishment because of them.”
Shabazz said those who have failed to disclose their HIV/AIDS status with sexual partners, even when using protection and/or were consensual, have been incarcerated, faced other punishment and have even been compelled to register under Megan’s Law as sex offenders.
This was the case for Robert Suttle, who attended the forum.
Suttle was convicted under Louisiana’s non-disclosure law and sentenced to six months in prison for failing to disclose his HIV-positive status to his lover.
“These laws do nothing to prevent HIV or transmission of the infection from one person to another, nor do they protect the community,” said Suttle, who says all such laws should be repealed.
Having served his sentence, Suttle is now required to register as a sex offender under Megan’s Law, and fights back by traveling the country to raise awareness about the non-disclosure laws he contends are unjust.
Asked if he felt those who test positive for HIV should be required by law to disclose their status to their intimate partners, Suttle said it is the responsibility of both parties to act responsibly to protect themselves. He also said the burden shouldn’t be placed solely on the shoulders of those infected with the virus.
“I feel that a person’s status is private, I don’t think it’s something that should be made public,” he said. “However, I think a person should always feel safe to disclose their status when it’s safe to do so.”
Ronda Goldfein, executive director of the Pennsylvania AIDS Law Project, also served as a panelist during the forum.
While Pennsylvania doesn’t have such laws, it does have sentence enhancement, possible harsher punishment for those who commit crimes knowing that they are HIV-positive, if the act was deemed to have made it more probable that others might be infected by it.
Biting or spitting on someone or sexual assault sentences could be enhanced if the person accused of committing such acts knowingly tested positive for HIV in the past.
“I spoke about the laws related to HIV in Pennsylvania,” Goldfein said. “The overall theme of the workshop was to inform Philadelphians of this disconcerting trend of criminalizing HIV.”
Local group collaborates with Dutch organization to fight youth STD crisis
Philadelphia FIGHT’s Youth Health Empowerment Project is using dance as a way to educate young people about HIV.
Y-HEP is the first to partner with dance4life, a Netherlands-based program aimed at empowering young people around HIV.
The organization joined Victoria’s Secret angel Doutzen Kroes at a press conference to launch dance4life-USA.
“dance4life is effective because it breaks down the inhibitions to learning, helps young people remember the importance of HIV prevention, and is fun,” Kroes said during the press conference held at City Hall.
Kroes encouraged parents to talk to their children about safe sex and condom use.
“We must break the silence and we cannot be afraid to talk to our kids about sex, using condoms, and to answer their questions,” she said.
Y-HEP will take the dance4life program to students at various school and youth organizations throughout Philadelphia where they will encourage young people to take responsibility for their health and decision-making. dance4life Philadelphia has joined 28 countries in offering the global program that provides young people with the skills to join the fight against HIV/AIDS.
“What we have found with dance4life — more than any other program designed to help reach young people transition into adolescence — is that this has been the most successful,” said Jane Shull, executive director, Philadelphia FIGHT.
AIDS Activities Coordinating Office Executive Director Jane Baker hailed the dance4life initiative and said it’s another tool in the arsenal to fight the growing rates of sexually transmitted diseases amongst Philadelphia’s youth.
In April, Philadelphia’s Department of Health launched a campaign to help combat the rise in STDs amid Philadelphia youth. During that launch, Health Commissioner Donald F. Schwarz said more than 19,000 cases of chlamydia were reported in 2010, with approximately 45 percent of those cases occurring in youths between the ages of 10 and 19 years, and 33 percent occurring in young adults ages 20 to 24 years. He also noted that 47 percent of the youth who were diagnosed with HIV at the city’s STD clinic had a prior history of gonorrhea, chlamydia or syphilis.
“Right now we have a public health emergency. This is a crisis. So anything you can do to bring these rates down, to make some impact on the rise of sexually transmitted diseases among young people in Philadelphia, you have to do it. This couldn’t be more timely,” said Baker.
dance4life International Founder Eveline Aendekerk says the organization’s goal is to facilitate a global youth movement of one million agents of change by 2014.
The push to expand the movement comes at a time when half of the new HIV infections are occurring in young people under 25 according to U.N. AIDS.
During the press conference, members of dance4life Philadelphia’s tour team chanted, “Take responsibility for life, let your voice be heard,” while showing off hip dance moves.
The dance4life program has four components, including a heart connection tour that encourages participation through music, drumming, dancing and education; skills4life, a workshop program where participants learn about HIV; and act4life, which encourages involvement in a volunteer project. The fourth component includes celebrate4life, a biannual celebration that is held on the Saturday before World AIDS Day. During the celebration, dance4life participants are connected via satellite where they dance together.
Over the coming months, Y-HEP will work to recruit students and student clubs to participate in the dance4life program, and will stage dance4life interventions in area schools.
Y-HEP is a community-based health and leadership development program for Philadelphia youth.
“Today in America, 152 people will become infected with HIV. Half of them will be Black.”
The stark reality of this statement is brought to the forefront in “Endgame: AIDS in Black America,” a “Frontline” special presentation airing at 9 p.m. on July 10 on WHYY TV12.
Statistics show that every 10 minutes, someone in the U.S. contracts HIV, and of those individuals, half are Black. Thirty years after the discovery of the AIDS virus among gay white men, nearly half of the 1 million people in the United States infected with HIV are Black men, women and children.
The two-hour documentary explores “one of the country’s most urgent, preventable health crises. tracing the history of the epidemic through the experiences of extraordinary individuals who tell their stories; people like Nel, a 63-year-old grandmother who married a deacon in her church and later found an HIV diagnosis tucked in his Bible; Tom and Keith, survivors who were children born with the virus in the 1990s; and Jovanté, a high school football player who didn’t realize what HIV meant until it was too late.
The film also examines how fear and silence perpetuate the spread of the AIDS virus in the Black community. “Endgame” also brings to light the challenges faced by those who are born with the virus.
“AIDS is God’s curse to a homosexual life. I think it stinks in the nostrils of God,” one clergyman observes.
From Magic Johnson to civil rights pioneer Julian Bond, from pastors to health workers, people on the front lines tell moving stories of the battle to contain the spread of the virus, and the opportunity to finally turn the tide of the epidemic.
“I’m not cured, I’ve been taking my meds,” said basketball great Ervin “Magic” Johnson, who shocked the world when he announced that he was HIV-positive in 1991. “I’m doing what I’m supposed to do. I’m living with the virus in my blood system and in my body.”
“We thought about AIDS as afflicting only white people, and then only gay white people,” said Julian Bond. “There were no gay black people.”
“Endgame: AIDS in Black America,” is directed, produced and written by Renata Simone, the producer of the 2006 award-winning “Frontline” series “The Age of AIDS.”
The Center for AIDS Research at 35th and Market streets and its Community Advisory Board engage in outreach efforts among civic groups, local organizations and residents.
Tiffany Dominique, the Center’s coordinator, describes herself as a liaison between the research group and the community.
“They really are the voice of the community,” she said.
Dominique said it is the advisory board that has shaped the way such boards are seen, setting standards for others across the nation.
“We’ve had things like ‘meetings of the mind’ where we have had researchers come and get feedback from communities and disseminate information so that it is not just in some paper that other scientists read, but at a community level,” she said.
The Community Advisory Board is unique, giving the public an opportunity to respond to the work of researchers and scientists as well as providing input about the implementation of such work in their community. It is the members of the board who, according to Dominique, wear many hats but continue to work diligently to engage the people.
“I think certain segments of the community are forgotten, and they are begging and wanting people to come talk to them [about HIV/AIDS and the Center and the board recognize that,” she said. “We want to talk to gay men, we want to talk to straight men, we want to talk to transgendered, and we’re not leaving anyone out of the conversation.”
The advisory board, Dominique said, takes every effort to reach out to everyone in the community in order to share information as well as to direct residents to other possible resources. Right now, the organization is working with faith-based groups to further take its outreach efforts to the people.
While some complain the church has been slow to confront the issue of HIV/AIDS, she noted it wasn’t the church, but also some areas of the community, including the medical community, that were hesitant to approach the issue.
“You get into this gray area talking about things which make people uncomfortable; you talk about sex, you talk about drugs, you talk about things that people have moral or ethical issues around,” Dominique said.
“We must be mindful of the inclusion of the community in every single aspect. “It’s very easy to have a great idea and not think about the community. You might really have a cure for cancer, but if it’s so intolerable that nobody would take it, so what if you find the cure?”
Today marks the official opening of the Jon Paul Hammond Public Computer Center at Prevention Point offices.
Philadelphia FIGHT, an AIDS service organization, will host a ribbon cutting ceremony today at 11 a.m. at Prevention Point, located at 166 West Lehigh Avenue.
Councilwoman Maria Quinones-Sanchez and members of the AIDS service community are expected to join in the celebration.
Philadelphia FIGHT is one of thirteen local agencies and educational institutions participating in the program led by the city of Philadelphia’s Division of Technology and the Urban Affairs Coalition.
The computer centers were made possible through $18.2 million in grant funding from the Federal American Recovery and Reinvestment Act’s Broadband Technology Opportunity Program (B-TOP).
The program is designed to provide broadband Internet access, computers and training to the most economically and socially vulnerable areas of the city. In total, 77 public computer centers will be created and 15,000 individuals will be trained in how to use computers thanks to the citywide initiative.
“This partnership will help more residents develop valuable digital literacy and workforce skills so they can remain competitive in today's 21st Century economy,” said Mayor Michael A. Nutter.
“We thank Philadelphia FIGHT for partnering with the city to make valuable resources and services available to residents directly in the heart of communities across Philadelphia. Through this initiative, residents, particularly those in less advantaged neighborhoods, will have an opportunity to enhance their ability to work toward a better quality of life.”
Philadelphia FIGHT’s Critical Path Project has over 15 years of experience addressing the digital divide and serving citizens who do not have the resources in their own homes to access the Internet. For its part, FIGHT will expand the computer lab and staffing in its AIDS Library, Institute for Community Justice, and Youth Health Empowerment Project. FIGHT will also assist in creating or enhancing computer centers at 27 of the 77 locations, including shelters and drug recovery houses where FIGHT currently makes HIV counseling and testing available.
The new site contains five computers and is open to the public Monday through Thursday from noon to 4 p.m. Classes take place at various times and include lessons in basic computing skills, Word, Excel, PowerPoint, digital storytelling, and blogging as well as FIGHT’s signature workshops “Finding Health Information Online” and “Finding HIV/AIDS Information Online.”
For information about computer classes, call (215) 634-5272.
Thirty years. It’s hard to believe it has been that long since the CDC first recognized what came to be known as HIV/AIDS. It’s even harder to believe how far we have come in the development of medicines to treat HIV and slow its progression so that today we can speak of HIV/AIDS as a chronic disease.
While scientists, philanthropists and politicians are offered much of the credit for how far we have come, many unsung heroes are overlooked: activists, advocates and people living with HIV/AIDS.
AIDS activists were largely responsible for much of the progress, including: pushing governments and companies to make HIV medications available; redefining clinical trials to ensure they were participatory and included people often left out (women, people of color and children); empowering people with HIV/AIDS to be seen with dignity and not as victims; fighting stigma placed on LGBTQ people (particularly gay non-trans men and trans women/men) and drug users; and advocating better prevention policies that include the controversial (but effective) use of comprehensive sex education and syringe exchanges.
The history of HIV/AIDS shows that activists are often ahead of the curve in recognizing effective treatment and prevention policies. So what are the next frontiers that we should be taking cues from current AIDS activists?
If we look here in Philadelphia, in recent years activists and advocates have been highlighting another issue that is inextricably connected to HIV/AIDS: housing.
Growing research across the country indicates that safe affordable housing is one of the strongest predictors of improved health outcomes, and reduced overall costs, for people with HIV/AIDS. Furthermore, housing helps prevent the spread of HIV as people are better able to take medications and avoid unsafe situations. In short, housing is treatment and prevention, and it saves money overall.
Here in Philadelphia we have one of the highest rates of HIV/AIDS in the country (one of the few cities to surpass us is Washington, D.C.), and we have an affordable housing and homelessness crisis. Last month Congressman Jim McDermott was in Philadelphia to speak about these joint epidemics and his landmark legislation that accounts for the vast majority of AIDS housing funding: Housing Opportunities for People With AIDS (HOPWA).
In his statement, Congressman McDermott said, “The City of Philadelphia ought to join the federal government and devote more of its own resources to this crisis. It can’t be a coincidence that Philadelphia has such an acute crisis in HIV and homelessness, yet devotes little to no resources to it.”
How bad is the crisis? The AIDS Activities Coordinating Office (AACO), of which I used to be the director, manages the citywide housing waitlist for people with AIDS and advanced HIV disease. The waitlist is currently at 231 people and has increased by nearly 70 percent in the past year, while the average wait time for most people on the list has increased from 2 years to about 2.5 years.
So what should we be doing? The city should continue recent progress, including: conducting the first HIV/AIDS housing needs assessment since 1996 and have a plan to track the ongoing need in the city, developing greater coordination among all city agencies involved in housing and HIV, and expanding AIDS “Housing First” slots (housing that does not require sobriety) that has proven to be very effective in other cities.
However, this is not nearly enough. Philadelphia, like elsewhere, is in the midst of an ongoing foreclosure crisis. Meanwhile, the Philadelphia Housing Authority has been selling hundreds of its properties. But we are doing little to find ways for these abandoned and sold properties to be used to house people most in need, including people with AIDS.
The city needs to be creative in seeking funding sources, from one-time federal grants, to cost-sharing partnerships with state agencies and private hospitals and insurers, to taxes and licensing fees on the wealthiest developers and landowners. HIV/AIDS, like mental illness, should count as a priority indicator for all housing programs, and we need to better streamline connecting people in need of housing assistance with appropriate programs. Also, HIV testing should be available at all city shelters, so we can find and get people into housing sooner (shelters/streets are awful places for people with bad immune systems).
Activists are showing us that housing is the new frontier in HIV/AIDS policy. The city needs to accept the facts and step up to find solutions to our AIDS housing crisis, and stop using the current recession or political climate as a scapegoat to avoid responsibility.
David Fair is the former director of the Philadelphia AIDS Activities Coordinating Office and of We The People Living with AIDS. He is currently the principal of David Fair Partners LL.C.
There’s a new tool to aid in the detection of HIV.
Consumers can now purchase the OraQuick In-Home HIV test from pharmacies and mass retailers around the country.
The test, produced by OraSure Technologies, Inc., provides people with the option of screening for HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) in the privacy of their own homes.
“There’s still a significant need for more testing options to be made available to the public,” said Douglas Michels, CEO of OraSure Technologies.
“Despite all the good work that has been done over the years to provide HIV testing, there are still about 20 percent of individuals that are unaware that they have it. To the extent that we can identify people who are infected, we believe that we can reduce forward transmission of HIV.”
The test uses saliva by way of a mouth swab to detect antibodies for HIV-1 and HIV-2. Results are available in 20 minutes. Consumers who take the test will have access to a 24-hour, seven days a week call center where they can get their questions answered, understand how to interpret their results, and be referred to HIV/AIDS health care professionals for follow-up testing.
The in home test is an over-the-counter version of OraQuick ADVANCE, an oral swab rapid HIV test used by doctors, hospitals, clinics and other trained professionals.
“I think it’s important to understand that we are not trying to position this product as a replacement for testing done in public health clinics and doctors offices. This is really an additional tool that people can access to learn their HIV status,” Michels added.
Gary Bell, executive director of BEBASHI, a provider of HIV/AIDS education and services for the African-American community, regards the new product as a nice tool to have in an overall arsenal. However, he says there are pros and cons.
“On the pro side, it gives people some control over the process,” Bell said, noting that it might be attractive to people who are not comfortable with walking into a clinic or a doctor’s office to be tested.
“On the con side, you don’t get the counseling that one would normally get — particularly if you went to an organization like BEBASHI or a medical clinic. I know in medical clinics, one doesn’t always get a whole lot of counseling, depending on where you go, however you do have a living being standing in front of you, that you can at least try to engage and ask some questions,” he said.
“It’s really not for everyone, but I do think it’s an important step forward in fighting this dreaded disease.”
A recent editorial published in the Annals of Internal Medicine says the home-based test is not likely to lower the barriers of care or reduce HIV transmission.
The editorial, co-authored by Dr. David Paltiel of Yale, said routine testing in doctors’ offices and clinics is the best way to identify people who don’t know they are infected with HIV.
The authors said with its relatively high cost, the test is likely to attract affluent persons at low risk for infection, persons with very recent high-risk exposures, or those with diagnosed HIV seeking to find out if treatment has reversed the production of antibodies for HIV. The authors recommend that physicians counsel their patients about the use, misuse, and anticipated benefits of home HIV testing.
The new testing option comes at a time when the U.S. Centers for Disease Control estimates that African Americans account for 44 percent of new HIV infections in the country. According to the CDC, there are about 1.2 million people living with HIV.
The test will retail for $39 and will be carried at 30,000 retailers across the country including CVS, Rite Aid and online via www.oraquick.com.
WASHINGTON — Nearly half of high school students say they've had sex, yet progress has stalled in getting them to use condoms to protect against the AIDS virus, government researchers reported Tuesday.
Today, four of every 10 new HIV infections occur in people younger than 30, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention — and the teen years, just as many youths become sexually active, are key for getting across the safe-sex message.
Using a long-standing survey of high school students' health, the CDC tracked how teen sexual behavior has changed over 20 years. The results are decidedly mixed.
About 60 percent of sexually active high school students say they used condoms the last time they had sex, researchers said at the International AIDS Conference. That's an increase from the 46 percent who were using condoms in 1991.
"This is good news," said Dr. Kevin Fenton, director of CDC's HIV prevention center. But, "we need to do a lot more."
Condom use reached a high of 63 percent back in 2003.
Black students are most likely to heed the safe-sex message, yet their condom use dropped from a high of 70 percent in 1999 to 65 percent last year, the study found.
The proportion of high school students who've had sex is 47 percent today — down a bit from 54 percent in 1991 — and they typically start at age 16, CDC said. Black teens showed a bigger decrease, with 60 percent sexually active today compared with 82 percent two decades ago.
The more partners, the more risk. Fifteen percent of high school students say they've had four or more partners, down from 19 percent in 1991.
Fenton said many school systems don't have strong enough sex education policies that include teaching teens about how to prevent HIV. But he cautioned that the CDC study can't link the abstinence-only policies pushed by Congress through the late 1990s and early 2000s to the stalled condom use.
Focusing on individual risk behaviors is just part of the story. Increasingly, HIV is an infection of the poor, and specialists at the world's largest AIDS meeting are making the point all week that tackling the virus globally will require broader efforts to address problems of poverty. Those include gaining better access to overall health services and fighting stigma.
In hard-hit Africa, where 60 percent of infections are among women, U.S. researchers announced a new step to develop tools women can use to protect themselves when their partners won't use condoms. A new study will test a monthly vaginal ring that oozes an anti-AIDS drug into the surrounding tissue in hopes of blocking HIV. The study, funded by the National Institutes of Health, will enroll nearly 3,500 women in Malawi, South Africa, Uganda, Zambia and Zimbabwe.
Also Tuesday, researchers reported more evidence that male circumcision is an important HIV-prevention tool in Africa, where it helps protect men from becoming infected by female partners. In Orange Farm, South Africa, just over half of the 52,000 men had been circumcised by last year, up from 17 percent in 2008. Circumcised men had half the rate of HIV infection as the uncircumcised, said Bertran Auvert of France's University of Versailles, who estimated that 1,000 new infections were avoided last year as a result.
While scientists were releasing new data at the meeting, AIDS activists marched across Washington to the White House to call for increased funding of HIV programs. Thirteen were arrested after tying dollar bills and pill bottles to the executive mansion's fence.
In the U.S., where new infections have stubbornly held at about 50,000 a year for a decade, complacency is part of the reason that progress in teen condom use has stalled, CDC's Fenton said.
"We have to generate a new sense of urgency," he said.
Overall, though, a characteristic of the young is to think they're invincible, Fenton added.
Lawrence Stallworth II, 20, of Cleveland, can attest that they're not. He learned he was infected with HIV at age 17, when he was a high school senior, after a hospitalization. A Black gay man, he's among one of the nation's highest-risk groups.
He's now an Ohio AIDS activist who works to teach young people that they need to protect themselves, and how.
"I want people to have the tools to keep themselves safe," said Stallworth, who is working with the nonprofit Advocates for Youth to declare a National Youth HIV & AIDS Awareness Day in April to increase young people's knowledge about their risk.
Part of that involves society getting "better at being more open about being able to talk about sex," Stallworth said. "It's still a taboo issue."
The CDC recommends that everyone in the U.S. ages 13 to 65 be tested for HIV at least once. Those at increased risk — such as people who have multiple sex partners or men who have sex with men — should be tested more frequently, at least once a year.
In South Carolina, 18-year-old Quinandria Lee offers an example of the safe sex practices that CDC says more young people should adopt.
Lee was frustrated at her school's abstinence-only focus. She learned about both male and female condoms from the South Carolina Contraceptive Campaign, and last year her principal allowed her to teach her classmates about them. Condoms are the only contraceptives that also protect against HIV infection.
But Lee credits her mother's frank talk about sex for this key protective step: Lee persuaded her boyfriend to go with her to a clinic where both got a clean bill of health before they ever had sex. Still, they use a condom every time.
"It's hard," she said of that get-tested conversation. But "you can't be too sure." -- (AP)
Local organizations will observe World AIDS Day, Dec. 1, by hosting a community event and offering HIV testing.
More than 20 organizations are partnering to host, “It Takes a Village” on Thursday from 5:30 p.m. to 7:30 p.m. at Broad Street Ministry, 315 S. Broad St.
The event combines artistic performances, free HIV counseling and rapid testing.
Event highlights will include performances by Smoke, Lilies and Jade Initiative; Joanna Pacitti; Kharisma Mcllwaine; and the Philadelphia Gay Men’s Chorus.
During the event, a large photographic and text HIV/AIDS timeline will be displayed on the sidewalk outside the venue.
The World Health Organization and the United Nations General Assembly first declared World AIDS Day in 1988 to focus global attention on the devastating impact of HIV/AIDS on the entire world. The observance provides an opportunity for people to unite in the fight against HIV, show support for those living with it and commemorate people who have died.
In commemoration of World AIDS Day, BEBASHI – Transition to Hope will offer extended HIV testing hours on Dec. 1 from 9 a.m. to 8 p.m. at 1217 Spring Garden St., first floor. The agency will use the OraQuick advanced oral swab rapid HIV test, which will yield a result in approximately 20 minutes. BEBASHI will offer a free gift to the first 100 people to be tested.
The observance comes at time when Philadelphia’s HIV rate is five times the national average.
To mark World AIDS Day, Community Behavioral Health will display panels of the AIDS Memorial Quilt at its 801 Market St. offices. By displaying panels of the quilt, the organization seeks to contribute to the global effort to keep HIV/AIDS at the forefront of people’s minds as a public health crisis. The AIDS quilt memorializes the life of a person lost to AIDS and is used as a tool to help prevent new HIV infections. One of the three panels to be displayed here features a section dedicated to AIDS activist, Pedro Zamora, who appeared on the third season of “The Real World: San Francisco” in 1994. As one of the first openly gay persons with AIDS to be portrayed in popular media, Zamora brought international attention to HIV/AIDS and lesbian/gay/bisexual/transexual issues and prejudices.