Pennsylvania: Ignorance and Denial Are Allowing HIV/AIDS Epidemic to Continue
June 20, 2006
With the number of AIDS cases on the rise in Luzerne County, Pa., one local HIV/AIDS group hopes National HIV Testing Day on June 27 will help raise awareness about the epidemic.
In 1998, the county reported 67 males and 11 females living with AIDS. By 2003, a reported 84 males and 15 females were living with the disease.
"It is very important to know your status," said Jill Arthur, outreach and secondary prevention specialist for the Wyoming Valley AIDS Council (WVAC). "Early detection is very important to begin the process of managing the disease. It also is important to protect any partner who might get infected. A lot of new cases are because people don't know their status, and they can go on for years with undetected symptoms."
Michelle Simmons of Scranton found out she was HIV-positive while trying to give blood to the American Red Cross in the late 1980s. Simmons said she was infected by a sexual partner who did not realize he was HIV-positive himself. Now she warns others that not knowing their status can be deadly.
"If you don't know about it, you figure it won't affect you, but that's not true," said Simmons. "There are a lot of people out there walking around who don't care and are not acknowledging it and are passing it off to a whole lot of people. If you don't acknowledge it, it's going to keep spreading," she said. "That is what keeps it an epidemic. Ignorance is the death sentence."
For more information or to make an appointment for free, confidential and anonymous testing and counseling at WVAC, telephone 570-823-5808.
Times Leader (Wyoming, Pa.)
06.20.06; Dawn Zera
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.