December 1, 2003
What do you know about AIDS? Why (and how) do you know as much as
you do? Why don't you know more, or less?
"A doctor from Afghanistan
stunned a conference on AIDS this month by revealing that he didn't
know what the symptoms of the disease were. Dr. Baz Mohammad Shirzad's
statement underscored a lack of awareness in many parts of Asia
-- even among health professionals -- that experts say is still
undermining the global war on AIDS, 15 years after the first World
AIDS Day galvanized the planet. In a small step to reduce the ignorance
ahead of World AIDS Day 2003 on Monday, U.N. and Thai officials
brought 11 doctors and field workers here from Afghanistan, Sri
Lanka and East Timor -- the kind of areas of recent conflict that
experts say are particularly vulnerable to the virus.... 'Thailand
is the only country that has had clear success,' said Hakan Bjorkman,
deputy resident representative of the United Nations Development
Program. 'This is why Thailand has so much to offer other countries.'"
Why do people need information?
What will it take to get them the information they need?
"Health workers hit
the streets of China's capital Monday, marking World AIDS Day by teaching prevention in a country whose leaders have
promised an aggressive fight against the disease -- and a new openness learned during the battle against SARS. The government has been sluggish
for years about disclosing the extent of AIDS here, or broaching the topic
in the media. But the harsh international response after the government's
initial secrecy during the outbreak of severe acute respiratory syndrome
this year has apparently prompted more openness. State-run newspapers were
filled with articles on AIDS, and the government's national midday newscast highlighted the event."
How can knowledge help
to slow the spread of AIDS? What do people need to know?
"Currently, the greatest
problem confronting the people of Swaziland is the HIV/AIDS pandemic.
In 2002, the HIV/AIDS infection rate of adults (ages 15 to 49) was
33.4 percent, and approximately 35,000 children have been orphaned
as a result of AIDS."
What do you know about
AIDS as an international problem? What do you know about what AIDS
is doing in the United States? What do you need to know? China?
Swaziland? Thailand? Afghanistan? What does that have to do with
high school and college life for your typical teen from the United
"HIV infection leading
to AIDS has been a major cause of illness and death among children,
teens, and young adults worldwide. Nationally, AIDS has been the
sixth leading cause of death in the United States among 15- to 24-year-olds
since 1991. In recent years, AIDS infection rates have been increasing
rapidly among teens and young adults. Half of all new HIV infections
in the United States occur in people under 25 years of age; thousands
of teens in the United States become infected each year. According
to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the majority
of new HIV cases in younger people are transmitted through unprotected
sex; one third of these cases are from injection drug usage - the
sharing of dirty, blood-contaminated needles."
If half of all new cases
affect those under the age of 25, then what about the other half?
"Older people are
at increasing risk for HIV/AIDS and other STDs. About 10% of all
people diagnosed with AIDS in the United StatesÚsome 75,000 AmericansÚare
age 50 and older. Because older people don't get tested for HIV/AIDS
on a regular basis, there may be even more cases than we know. Many
factors contribute to the increasing risk of infection in older
people. In general, older Americans know less about HIV/AIDS and
STDs than younger age groups because the elderly have been neglected
by those responsible for education and prevention messages. In addition,
older people are less likely than younger people to talk about their
sex lives or drug use with their doctors, and doctors don't tend
to ask their older patients about sex or drug use. Finally, older
people often mistake the symptoms of HIV/AIDS for the aches and
pains of normal aging, so they are less likely to get tested."
Those over 50 and those
under the age of 25 tend to have their differences. Different lifestyles,
different ways of viewing the world, and different needs when it
comes to AIDS education. Age is not the only issue making a one-size-fits-all
education program impractical.
"The United States
has a large and growing Hispanic population that is heavily affected
by the HIV/AIDS epidemic. In 2000, Hispanics represented 13% of
the U.S. population (including residents of Puerto Rico), but accounted
for 19% of the total number of new U.S. AIDS cases reported that
year (8,173 of 42,156 cases). The AIDS incidence rate per 100,000
population (the number of new cases of a disease that occur during
a specific time period) among Hispanics in 2000 was 22.5, more than
3 times the rate for whites (6.6), but lower than the rate for African
In some cases, different
cultures (locally and internationally) have communication styles
that affect how (if at all) information is spread.
"Also, many sufferers
hide that they are sick because of the social stigma attached to
having a disease that many in China deem is caused by
'immoral' behavior, the U.N. agency said in a report released Monday....Cambodia
marked World AIDS Day on Monday with calls to fight the stigma of
the disease, which keeps many people with HIV -- the virus that
causes AIDS -- from seeking treatment to prolong their lives."
Last year for World AIDS
Day, the Question of the Week asked:
"Why is there more of a stigma associated with HIV/AIDS than
with other contagious diseases? What could this generation do to
help the next generation have more of a rational understanding of
the disease and less fear of the people who carry it?"
So what's next? What can
this generation do to help the next?
"March 24, 2003 --U
of T researchers are heading an international collaboration to develop
innovative strategies for educating youth about
HIV/AIDS prevention. Called Gendering Adolescent AIDS Prevention
(GAAP), the project involves young people in participatory research
designed to tailor prevention messages to the different social and
political contexts faced by youth around the globe....'HIV rates
are rising in youth -- and particularly in girls -- and we see youth
as the best resource for changing the course of what's become a
worldwide epidemic,' said June Larkin, GAAP's principal investigator
and a lecturer in the Institute for Women's Studies and Gender Studies
at U of T. She noted girls may be particularly at risk for HIV infection
because of both biological and social factors."
What groups do you consider
yourself to be a member of? Cultural groups? Age groups? Gender
groups? Other groups?
Questions of the Week:
What do people need to know about AIDS? Keeping in mind that each
individual person cannot have their own private information presentation,
how could this information be presented in a way that could reach
the most people? How should this information be presented differently
to different groups? How would you present the information to groups
with which you are familiar?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum