In the 1980s and 90s, an HIV diagnosis was akin to a death sentence. Medical advances have changed that, extending a life an additional 20-25 years if all goes well. These advances have been a blessing to millions but are not without unintended consequences, according to experts who spoke at the the Collin County World AIDS Day ceremony, held in Plano on Dec. 1, 2011.
“Although HIV/AIDS does not discriminate, we have seen an increase in young African American males diagnosed in recent years, said Dale McEowen, Medical Case Worker with Health Services of North Texas. “Young people must be reminded they cannot engage in risky behavior. AIDS is still an epidemic.”
About 30 Collin County residents gathered in a Plano church for the ceremony, which included a candlelight vigil to honor the lives lost to the disease. Several portions of the national AIDS quilt were on display. I placed a carnation on the quilt, as did dozens of other attendees, to remember my good friend Charles, who passed away in 2006.
The event was organized by C.U.R.E., an advocacy organization based in Collin County, whose mission is to heighten awareness to the need of enhanced respect and dignity for the HIV/AIDS community and to the need for increased education, prevention, and outreach to win our battle against this terrible disease.
We may feel like we are immune to HIV here in cozy McKinney, but Roseann Rossetti, president of C.U.R.E., reminded us that nobody is immune and that there is still a stigma associated with the disease. Education remains a top priority.
McEowen reminded the audience that Health Services of North Texas provides free HIV testing and asked us to tell our friends, which is why I’m telling you.