Panel: Teaching is cure for AIDS

Published 1:15 pm Thursday, March 8, 2007

By Staff
Members discuss the reality of fighting the disease
By DAN PARSONS, Staff Writer
North Carolina ranks 10th in the country for number of documented AIDS cases — and many of those are concentrated in the eastern part of the state.
Spreading a message of prevention, a panel of leaders spoke Wednesday to hash out the facts and dispel the myths associated with HIV and AIDS. They spoke at Metropolitan AME Zion Church in Washington.
The stigma surrounding AIDS hampers prevention, said Peter Omonde, a physician’s assistant for the Agape Community Health Clinic. Many people who test positive for HIV do not tell their sexual partners, while others refuse to be tested because they simply don’t want to know the results.
AIDS is a disease that weakens the immune system, gradually destroying the body’s ability to fight infection. It is caused by HIV, most often spread through sexual contact, contact with infected blood and breast milk. There is no cure, but with treatment, infection is not a death sentence, panel members said.
Because AIDS is incurable, the most effective plan of attack is prevention through education, which was the panel’s primary message.
As a public-health education specialist with the Beaufort County Health Department, Clifton Langley’s job is to educate children about AIDS and other health issues.
Panelists said schools are the best places to spread their message about AIDS’ risks to teens. But until parents accept that premarital sex among some teens is a reality, a safe-sex message won’t be given in schools, panelists said.
Schools teach only abstinence as a measure to prevent the spread of disease, but teen-pregnancy statistics clearly show that teaching abstinence doesn’t work, Aitken said.
Thomas Yates, a peer educator who is also infected with HIV, says schools don’t go far enough with sexual education.
Lucy Torres, diabetes educator at the Agape Clinic, said anyone at risk for infection should be tested every three months.