Buffalo News (12.01.11) - Friday, December 16, 2011
" . . . [HIV/AIDS] has lurked among us for 30 years. We have
knocked it down, but we cannot knock it out. We can treat it,
but we can't cure it. We can teach people how to avoid it, but
we cannot vaccinate them against it . . .
"HIV can be sneaky, exhibiting no symptoms for a decade. About
20 percent of HIV-positive people don't even know they have
it. That's why testing is so important. If you know you carry
HIV you can begin treatment to prevent it from developing into
AIDS, and you can take steps to protect others.
"Today's treatment regimens have transformed HIV from a dire
prognosis into a mostly manageable chronic illness. Area
deaths of people diagnosed with AIDS peaked in 1995 at about
175. That annual number is now below 25, and some of those
deaths may be due to causes other than AIDS.
"The vast majority of women who contract HIV get it through
heterosexual contact. By testing and treating HIV-positive
pregnant women and through Caesarean sections, the risks of
delivering an infected baby have fallen enormously. Last year
in all of New York state, only three babies were born with
HIV, compared with nearly 100 in 1997.
"But these successes against the virus have engendered a
dangerous complacency, especially among the young. Teenagers
and 20-somethings weren't alive during the epidemic's early
years when it took a heartbreaking toll, and some of them seem
oblivious to the risks today. Gay and bisexual males ages 13
to 29 accounted for 35 percent of new HIV diagnoses locally in
"While the world awaits a vaccine and cure, we all need to
remember the ABCs of HIV prevention: Abstinence is the surest
way to avoid HIV. Being in a mutually faithful relationship
will protect you both. Condoms must otherwise be used."
The author is a member of AmeriCorps/VISTA, assigned to the
Niagara County AIDS Task Force.