St. Cloud Times (12.09.11) - Monday, December 19, 2011
Some 50 people attended a recent service commemorating World
AIDS Day at the Rural AIDS Action Network's headquarters in
St. Cloud. RAAN officials say they are worried by the growing
number of HIV/AIDS cases they are seeing in the region.
"In rural Minnesota, many individuals are unaware of their HIV
infection, and they may be symptom-free for up to a decade,
continuing to unknowingly infect others," said RAAN Executive
Director Charles Hempeck. "Some people may not take
precautions to protect themselves because there's a stereotype
that it's mainly a gay men's disease, and it's not."
"People often think of HIV as a gay disease, and it certainly
affects a high number of gay and bisexual men, but there's a
growing number in Minnesota of women and minorities
contracting HIV," Hempeck said.
The statewide nonprofit conducts HIV awareness outreach,
including testing, while providing support services to those
living with the disease. "We're especially seeing a growing
need for services among those of Hispanic origin and African-
born individuals, especially down in the southern part of the
state," said Hempeck.
The gathering featured a video documenting the first 30 years
of HIV/AIDS including the deaths of actor Rock Hudson and
teenage activist Ryan White, who would have celebrated his
40th birthday this December. "World AIDS Day is about taking
time to remember those folks that have passed due to AIDS and
to use that as a catalyst to think about the future and all
the positive things that are going around about treatment and
prevention of HIV," Hempeck noted.