April 13, 2012
Approximately 50 area teens and adults attended last week's 17th annual Youth Reacting to AIDS Youth Empowerment Conference at Danbury's Unitarian Universalist Church.
Speaker Chip Reed, a retired advertising agency owner and an HIV/AIDS volunteer, shared his personal story of losing his partner and many friends to the disease, helping to found an AIDS hospice, and now educating young people to avoid risky behaviors. His frank talk aimed to upend the casual attitude some people have about HIV/AIDS.
Reed told the audience HIV/AIDS remains incurable, and the cost of medicines to treat it can be prohibitive. Stigma around the disease can affect one's personal and work life, he noted. AIDS apathy, he said, is particularly worrisome since it can result in poor decision-making when it comes to sex. HIV does not discriminate on the basis of age, gender or social status, he added.
"This is all about living," Reed said. "When it's raining, you put on a raincoat. If you don't ... you might get wet."
Reed's speech about consequences was an eye-opener for Wooster School freshman Emilee Coladarci. "I learned a lot," she said, as her friends nodded in agreement.