Commentary & Opinion
New York: Progress and Complacency Mark Fight Against Disease
December 16, 2011
" . . . [HIV/AIDS] has lurked among us for 30 years. We have knocked it down, but we cannot knock it out. We can treat it, but we can't cure it. We can teach people how to avoid it, but we cannot vaccinate them against it . . .
"HIV can be sneaky, exhibiting no symptoms for a decade. About 20 percent of HIV-positive people don't even know they have it. That's why testing is so important. If you know you carry HIV you can begin treatment to prevent it from developing into AIDS, and you can take steps to protect others.
"Today's treatment regimens have transformed HIV from a dire prognosis into a mostly manageable chronic illness. Area deaths of people diagnosed with AIDS peaked in 1995 at about 175. That annual number is now below 25, and some of those deaths may be due to causes other than AIDS.
"The vast majority of women who contract HIV get it through heterosexual contact. By testing and treating HIV-positive pregnant women and through Caesarean sections, the risks of delivering an infected baby have fallen enormously. Last year in all of New York state, only three babies were born with HIV, compared with nearly 100 in 1997.
"But these successes against the virus have engendered a dangerous complacency, especially among the young. Teenagers and 20-somethings weren't alive during the epidemic's early years when it took a heartbreaking toll, and some of them seem oblivious to the risks today. Gay and bisexual males ages 13 to 29 accounted for 35 percent of new HIV diagnoses locally in 2009.
"While the world awaits a vaccine and cure, we all need to remember the ABCs of HIV prevention: Abstinence is the surest way to avoid HIV. Being in a mutually faithful relationship will protect you both. Condoms must otherwise be used."
The author is a member of AmeriCorps/VISTA, assigned to the Niagara County AIDS Task Force.
12.01.2011; Richard R. Haynes
This article was provided by CDC National Prevention Information Network. It is a part of the publication CDC HIV/Hepatitis/STD/TB Prevention News Update.
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