A recent study showed that doctors in major U.S. cities aren't doing enough counseling of HIV patients to prevent the spread of the virus. Upon first seeing the news article, I wasn't sure exactly how counseling could prevent the spread of HIV.
However, upon reading further, I realized that without counseling, some HIV patients had abandoned safe sex practices and prevention techniques.
It's amazing to me that this epidemic isn't more publicized. According to the Centers for Disease Control, the estimated number of diagnoses of AIDS through 2002 in the United States is 886,575. Adult and adolescent AIDS cases total 877,275 with 718,002 cases in males and 159,271 cases in females. Through the same time period, 9,300 AIDS cases were estimated in children under age 13. Estimated number of deaths of persons with AIDS is 501,669, including 496,354 adults and adolescents, and 5,315 children under age 15.
This is no longer the 1980s, in which it was taboo to even discuss the topic, and ignorance led people to believe that Rock Hudson was the only American who suffered from AIDS. We're much more educated on the subject now, and we know that this disease affects a lot of people, males and females of all ages and races. So why does it seem that we're still afraid to talk about it?
"Doctors in Atlanta, Baltimore, Los Angeles and Miami were more likely to provide HIV risk-reduction counseling to those newly diagnosed with the virus that causes AIDS than to existing HIV patients," states the CDC study. About 60 percent of the 317 doctors surveyed said they regularly provided counseling which health officials believe is critical to curbing the spread of the infectious disease to their new HIV patients. But only 14 percent of the doctors said they routinely counseled those patients who have had the virus.
The point of this column is not to attack the doctors who haven't been counseling their HIV-positive patients but to point out that awareness of this issue has dropped rapidly in recent years. AIDS used to be something that everyone knew a lot about, something that was discussed as an issue of importance.
We need to raise AIDS awareness because we need young people to know what it is. We need those who are infected with HIV to know how to stop it from spreading. We can't prevent something if we don't talk about it.
April Avison is the city editor of the Daily Herald. Her column appears on Mondays. She can be reached at (770) 957-9161 or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org.