Florida AIDS Talk: "It Can Happen to Anybody"
October 5, 2007
Too many people mistakenly believe HIV/AIDS is no longer a threat, Debbie Sergi-Laws recently told attendees of a kickoff luncheon for the 2007 AIDS Walk at New College of Sarasota. "People think that if you get it, you just take a pill a day and it's OK," she said. "But AIDS changes your life."
Sergi-Laws should know. Her HIV-positive diagnosis came after a physical exam for a new life insurance policy in 1989 found her first husband was infected. Married for four years, the two were symptom-free and thought they were in good health. "We discovered my husband had been infected 10 years before. He was straight, never did drugs, but there was a time when he had unprotected sex," she said. Her husband died four years after being diagnosed.
AIDS, said Sergi-Laws, affects every aspect of her life. Though she manages her disease by taking five different medicines daily, the drugs' side effects leave her so weak and tired that she cannot work full-time. "I look like a normal healthy person, but my life is not normal," she said.
Sergi-Laws now dedicates her time to helping others learn the importance of HIV prevention. "People think it can't happen to them, but if it can happen to me, it can happen to anybody," she said.
That is precisely the message that is needed in Manatee County and all of Florida, said Kristen Pate, the county Health Department's HIV/AIDS coordinator. The HIV infection rate in Manatee rose 48 percent in the first five months of 2007 compared to the same period last year, she noted.
09.30.2007; Donna Wright
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.