Education, Awareness Key to Eliminating HIV/AIDS in CNY
Monday was World Aids Day, a nation-wide effort to re-ignite awareness of a dangerous disease that's claimed 35 million lives since 1983.
Health experts here in Central New York are still working with patients to fight the pandemic. According to Doctor Elizabeth Reddy, Medical Director for the Designated Aids Center Clinic at Upstate University Hospital, “the general public has this idea that HIV is a thing of the past, or perhaps it’s just something that’s going on abroad and it’s not in my community.”
Reddy was one of the speakers at an Educational Luncheon held by the CNY HIV Care Network. Panelists generally agreed that outreach and prevention efforts need to be regrouped and renewed:
Reddy says that could be attributed to the higher rate of new HIV infections among young gay men coming in to Upstate’s clinic. Among the newer patients at the clinic, as many as 60 percent are gay men. But she cautions that it’s very difficult to pigeonhole the specific demographics of the population who are at risk, so awareness campaigns should be cognizant of that.
Another expert who spoke at yesterday’s luncheon is Doctor Richard Torres. The Chief Medical Officer at Optimus Healthcare and an Associate Professor of Medicine at Yale says advances in treatment can be a double-edged sword for young people:
“I think another important factor is that, since the treatment of HIV has improved so much over the last 30 years, there’s a myth that people can acquire the infection and still be treated and live a healthy life. It’s still not a curable disease. As such, young people are taking risks that they shouldn’t be taking, thinking that down the line they can just get on medication. That’s really not a good belief to have. So educating everyone about safe practices and preventing acquisition of the virus is very important.”
Numerous other organizations attended the luncheon Monday with a common purpose: to help spread accurate and useful information to help people protect themselves against infection. For more information about World Aids Day, visit worldaidsday.org.