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Indiana: More Young People Getting AIDS

March 4, 2005

Spontaneous spring break encounters lead to an upswing in college-age visitors to the Muncie-based Open Door Community Service's HIV/AIDS program. "When people are partying and having a good time they let their guard down," explains Kim Wheat, ODC's HIV/AIDS program coordinator. Local health workers have increasingly seen youths ages 16-25 engage in risky sexual behavior. Statewide, about 1,026 people ages 13-24 contracted HIV/AIDS from July 2002 to June 2003.

With advances in HIV therapy, many young people think having HIV just means having to take pills every day, Wheat said. Aside from the drugs' side effects -- which can include dry mouth, fatigue, diarrhea, nausea, vomiting and neuropathy -- they are expensive, said Wheat. "I compare it to chemotherapy." Much of ODC's work with its 80 clients per month involves financial assistance with issues like medicine, insurance, and rent.

Jack James, executive director of Portland-based AIDS Task Force of East Central Indiana, explained that youths who engage in risky behavior generally lack knowledge about HIV/AIDS. He has seen youths who contracted HIV or other diseases through so-called "friends with benefits" parties, in which small groups of friends agree to have sex only with others in the group. But the rule is often broken, exposing the friends to a variety of STDs. In addition, he said, trendy tattoo and piercing parties among youths are often not hygienic.

Each school system in Indiana is required to have an AIDS Advisory Council to oversee HIV/AIDS education. James criticized public schools for emphasizing abstinence, rather than safe sex and STD prevention, in sex education. "I think schools do as good a job as they can, but we'd certainly love to help more," said Wheat, who serves on Muncie's council. "We would love to be invited to do presentations."

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Excerpted from:
Star Press
02.25.2005; Tara Clifton

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. You can find this article online by typing this address into your Web browser:

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