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Maryland Campaign Focuses on AIDS Test, Prevention

March 22, 2002

Faced with a doubling of Carroll County, Md., AIDS cases in the last three years, county health officials have launched a campaign to encourage testing and early treatment and to educate young people about AIDS. "Death rates are down, but infection rates are up," said Bernice Culver, an AIDS case manager for the county's Health Department. In the past three years, Culver has seen her AIDS caseload jump to as many as 50 patients throughout the county.

The Health Department has purchased billboard and radio advertising and is circulating nearly 1,000 fliers in doctors' offices, community centers and spots popular with teenagers. The message: get tested for HIV. The department offers free and confidential testing for HIV and conducts about 150 tests a month. The county is using a federal grant that targets high-risk women and youths -- two groups with increasing AIDS rates -- to fund the campaign. "Carroll has all the risk factors for HIV in place," Culver said. "There is an increase in drug use that increases risk for infection, and younger and younger teens are becoming sexually active. Education is at the heart of reversing these trends. By the time youth reach 12th grade, about 25 percent of those sexually active report they have had four or five sexual partners," she added. "Unsafe sex is another part of the problem."

Lynda Niles, a county health educator, is taking the prevention message into schools using the state-approved curriculum on STDs. The program stresses abstinence as the only 100 percent effective means of protection. Niles candidly discusses the dangers of risky behavior. With a middle school audience, Niles said, "[HIV] likes everybody. It's not who we are, but what we are doing that gives it a chance." A teenager can be tested anonymously, without parental permission, and would be the only one to receive the results. If the test were positive for HIV, Culver would offer counseling and medical referrals.

Back to other CDC news for March 22, 2002

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Adapted from:
Baltimore Sun
03.20.02; Mary Gail Hare

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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