HIV Surges Among Young Tennesseans
April 21, 2011
HIV diagnoses among people ages 15-24 in Tennessee rose by 32 percent from 2005 to 2009, state health department data show.
The Vanderbilt Comprehensive Care Center (VCCC), which specializes in HIV treatment, is "seeing an influx of college-age patients coming through our doors. That has us all very concerned," said Victoria Harris, the clinic's director of education. Young people, she said, "don't have a reality of this virus."
Brad Beasley, a 20-year veteran of the Metro Health Department who has been on the frontlines of HIV/AIDS since 1986, conducts online prevention outreach. He very often sees people purposefully seeking sex partners who agree not to use condoms. "Behavior is back to where it was in 1980," he observed.
Too often, people, particularly young people, are misinformed about HIV/AIDS. "There's a big myth out there that people who have HIV can have unsafe sex with other HIV-positive people. That it's OK," said Robertson Nash, a VCCC nurse practitioner. "It's actually very dangerous," potentially leading to drug resistance.
Almost one of six people newly diagnosed with the virus in 2007 have a strain resistant to at least one class of HIV drugs. "Despite the availability of effective antiretrovirals, people cannot assume that HIV is always, and certainly not easily, treatable," said CDC's Scott Bryan.
Meharry Medical College professor Donald J. Alcendor, who works with the Center for AIDS Health Disparities Research, tries to dispel HIV myths among high school seniors. Roughly half do not know HIV can be transmitted through oral sex, he noted.
Nashville health officials last month hosted a summit on new strategies to prevent HIV/AIDS. The Rev. Ed Sanders, who serves on the President's Advisory Council on HIV/AIDS, said vectors for the disease include ignorance, stigma, poverty, and discrimination.
The Tennessean (Nashville)
04.19.2011; Tom Wilemon
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