Knowledge is power

Dr.-Sam-Ho-photo

Dr. Sam Ho

A generation of young people have never known a world without AIDS, but their complacency means new infections continue

People who weren’t yet born when AIDS first emerged are today most at risk for becoming HIV positive — an alarming development that underscores how essential awareness is, especially as we approach World AIDS Day, Dec. 1.

From 2006 to 2009, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reported that the HIV incidence rate for Americans between 13 and 29 years old increased by about 21 percent. In fact, most of the new HIV infections reported in this country involve people under 30.

Americans under 30 have never known a world without AIDS. At the same time, they’ve never really known a time when effective treatment for HIV and AIDS wasn’t available. This hasn’t always been the case. As this disease turns 30, we need to ensure that people — especially younger people — remain aware of AIDS and how to prevent it.

AIDS awareness is one of the biggest challenges we face when trying to prevent it. After 30 years of addressing what was once considered one of America’s most pressing health problems, AIDS is no longer front page news. But on this World AIDS Day, let’s not forget that about 56,000 Americans become infected with HIV each year, according to the CDC, and that more than 14,000 Americans with AIDS die each year.

Thanks to more effective and more available treatments, more Americans who have HIV and AIDS are able to live. The CDC estimates this number at more than 1 million nationwide. Regularly testing people most at risk for HIV — and then providing antiretroviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients — dramatically reduces the number of new infections.

Preventing HIV is not complicated. If you’re sexually active, get tested. Don’t use IV drugs or share needles. Abstain or practice safer sex.

With preventive care, patients and their health care providers can fight and manage this disease and slow its spread. But we can’t allow today’s more effective treatments to make us complacent or ambivalent, or to lessen our resolve to find a cure.

To learn more or to find a place near you to get tested, visit ActAgainstAIDS.org.

Dr. Sam Ho, M.D., is the chief medical officer for UnitedHealthcare.

This article appeared in the Dallas Voice print edition November 25, 2011.

—  Kevin Thomas

WATCH: Why last night’s DISD victory shouldn’t lead to complacency on anti-gay bullying

On the heels of last night’s approval of an LGBT-inclusive anti-bullying policy by the Dallas school district, comes this sobering reminder that the LGBT community’s work has just begun.

For one thing, these policies don’t mean squat without training and enforcement. And for another, only a fraction of students even in North Texas attend DISD schools.

Fox 4 reports on one North Texas mom who says the Keller ISD is failing to protect her son from anti-gay bullying:

The boy’s mother said he has been roughed up more than half a dozen times at school. He’s been punched, pushed and had his head slammed into a locker. FOX 4 has agreed not to identify her to protect the boy’s identity.

“I don’t want him to be physically assaulted anymore. I want him to get an education, that’s all,” the boy’s mother said.

The woman said her son is depressed and suicidal because of bullies.

“They say to him you’re gay, you’re a faggot or you’re retarded,” she said. “A boy told him you need to go get a gun and shoot yourself.”

—  John Wright