Tuesday, February 22, 2005
Editorial: New battle fronts in the battle against AIDS
Recent news should spur public officials to apply more comprehensive, aggressive new strategies in fighting the deadly disease.
From the RoundTable blog
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A New York man carries a new, more virulent strain of the deadly virus. Health experts urge all Americans to undergo routine testing for the AIDS virus.
In recent weeks, startling news reports signal a growing urgency in the fight against AIDS.
The headlines should compel renewed efforts for prevention, cure and continual education about preventing the deadly disease.
Public officials should regain the momentum to fight it on a number of fronts. They need to understand - and work to eliminate - the factors that influence risky behavior.
Two decades ago, the skeletal appearance of celebrity Rock Hudson and, six years later, the grim announcement of Magic Johnson stunned a nation into confronting the ravages of AIDS.
The recent reports are this generation's wake-up call. America needs to respond aggressively.
In Roanoke, several new approaches are under way to raise awareness of the grim reality of HIV. The Council of Community Services has launched a series of five seminars over the next several months to tackle the subject openly.
On Thursday, the council also will host the grand opening of its "Operation Lifesaver," a walk-in center at which the public can receive free HIV testing and information about the virus.
The local emphasis doesn't come too soon.
According to the Centers for Disease Control, black women are the fastest-growing group of people infected with HIV.
Epidemiologists note several factors prevalent in many black communities, including poverty, substance abuse and the large number of men moving through the prison system, where the rate of HIV infection is as much as 10 times that of the general population.
Along with long-standing appeals for abstinence and condom use, reducing HIV infections also should entail changing the economic circumstances that influence many women's risky behavior in the first place.
The nation's leaders also must not only welcome but encourage research that will help shed light on the spread of the disease and ways to contain it, without the interference of detractors who would otherwise resort to shame and ostracism to treat a public health peril.
Finally, continual education is essential. Public officials should not allow misinformation or apathy to jeopardize young people who weren't alive when the disease surfaced some 25 years ago.