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Colorado: AIDS After 30 Years -- Education of Youth Has Faded

August 3, 2011

"... Now that doctors know how people contract HIV, questions such as 'can I get AIDS from an infected toilet seat?' or 'can I get AIDS from an infected swimming pool?' might seem silly.

"Teenagers born a decade after the first outbreak of the HIV/AIDS epidemic did not experience the horror and mystery that the virus might have meant to their parents or older siblings. As HIV has become a treatable chronic condition, today's teenagers have grown up with a different understanding of the disease. But that doesn't mean that questions about toilet seats or swimming pools are any less relevant, and it certainly doesn't mean those questions aren't being asked, according to local history teacher Heidi Rickard.

"'We've kind of put this story away and have forgotten about it,' Rickard said. 'We think that we've educated everybody, but there's a whole generation of people growing up that don't know about it.'

"Six years ago Rickard helped create a 10th grade history class, Scientific Revolutionaries, at Pine Creek High School, where she and her students discuss and study global health. The class spends nine weeks talking about the AIDS epidemic. It's not a sex-ed class, nor is it a health class, Rickard insisted. ... She particularly wanted her students to understand what HIV patients have gone through over the years, both medically and socially.

"Rickard's students have become active in calling attention to the AIDS history. They helped prepare an exhibit at the East Branch of the Pikes Peak Library District commemorating the AIDS quilt, a project that was begun in 1987. ...

"Today, the most at-risk group for HIV infection is people in their teens and early twenties. ...

"This realization hit her hard, said Rickard, and has pushed her to continue discussing HIV with her students.

"There is one question, however, to which Rickard still doesn't have an answer: 'Didn't they cure that?' The answer: No, they still haven't."

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Excerpted from:
The Gazette (Colorado Springs)
07.01.2011




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