World AIDS Day raises awareness

Kara Hull and Kara Hull

The American College Health Association estimates that one in five hundred college students are infected with the HIV virus, and over half of all infected individuals are under the age of 25. A university the size of Bowling Green could possibly contain 36 infected students, 33 percent could be unaware of their infection.

Dec. 1 marked the 14th annual World AIDS Day, carrying the theme “I Care, Do You?” World AIDS Day was founded to bring messages of compassion, hope and awareness about HIV and AIDS. The red ribbon remains an international symbol of AIDS/HIV awareness and support.

Recent developments in drug therapies for HIV infected individuals has created new attitudes toward this serious infection. The effectiveness of these drugs causes individuals to feel that “you can live with HIV and it’s not a big deal” said Betsy Bunner, Wellness Center Program Director.

Bunner said that the problems associated with drug therapy are that these drugs are expensive, cause numerous side effects and are usually not effective. After a certain period of time HIV can develop resistance to even the most protective of combination therapies.

The HIV virus is transmitted through sexual contact with an infected individual, direct contact with infected blood, which can occur with the sharing of drug needles. HIV can also infect babies in utero. Symptoms of the virus include swollen lymph glands, excessive tiredness, fever, loss of appetite or weight and night sweats. The infection is often quickly dismissed because the symptoms the flu.

As reported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 774,467 reported AIDS cases through the year 2000 in the United States. Fifty-eight percent of these individuals have died.

In Ohio, there are an estimated 10,200 to 18,000 men, women and children living with the HIV/AIDS. While the number of people diagnosed and dying with AIDS has decreased over the past few years, the number of newly diagnosed HIV infections has increased. Minorities in Ohio have a higher rate of infection. HIV infection is also increasing among women.

Amy Jones of the Wood County Department of Health, said that they have “provided the school systems with information” regarding HIV/AIDS.

“We’re always willing to function as a resource in regard to current information on any health issues” Jones said.

“Many (people) are taking chances, that they might not take if they knew or realized the consequences” Bunner said.

A life living with HIV or AIDS is complicated as the timing of medications can disrupt daily schedules. Living with HIV or AIDS is “not an easy life” Bunner said.