In the early 1980s, AIDS was seen as a disease for homosexuals and drug users only. However, research as well as education on the disease brought about the awareness that this disease could affect anyone; hence changed the people’s attitude towards the disease. Introduction of various therapies in the 1990s, also made AIDS a chronic controllable condition. With improved drugs, the people’s attitude has improved as well. Reduction of hysteria and fear that was associated with the illness has also led less discrimination and ignorance of those living with the condition.
In the United States, the numbers of new infections yearly has decreased from more than 150,000 in the mid 1980s and gone steady in the late 1990s at about 40,000. In 2003, an initiative called, ‘Advancing HIV Prevention’ was invented, which ensures routine HIV testing as part of medical care. It also comprises of implementation of new strategies for diagnosing HIV infection outside medical settings, prevention of new infections through working with infected people and their partners and also decreasing infections through child birth.
The Center for Disease Control has also come up with the ‘Minority AIDS Initiative’ which is out to reach the minority races and the non school going young people as well. This association has reduced the health differences that exist in communities made up of minority races or ethnicities and who stand high chances of getting infected. Funds towards this project are used to improve prevention of the infection in such areas. The Center for Disease Control also awards community based organizations that focus mainly on youth.
It also funds the state, territories and local health departments that have organizations that serve the youth. Most awards are given to African American and Hispanics. This motivates these minorities to engage in safe sex practices, increases their awareness of the disease as well its adverse effects. The youth are a target group since they are the active generation and hence the major target group. Reports from the Center for Disease Control have also shown that communication between parents and their children at an early age is very effective.
Clear communication regarding values, expectations and safe sex is necessary in that it helps youth delay sexual initiation and make mature and responsible decisions regarding their sexual behaviors and their partners later in their lives. Children learn to trust their parents at a very tender age; hence the reason why sex education should start at home, to ensure that when it is taught at school, it is much easier to understand and comprehend. Parents who engage their children in open discussions are likely to prevent early initiation into sexual activity, unwanted pregnancies as well as HIV and AIDS infections.
Schools are also very significant in reaching the youth before they involve themselves in high risk behaviors. This is why in the United States high school students receive sex education in class. All in all a total approach to HIV/AIDS prevention should include the whole community at large. This means from the individual himself, those who we hang around with, families, schools, churches and community programs. It should not just be a burden for the school, rather a whole inclusive process.
This will ensure that the young people are constantly reminded of the dangers facing them and the need to keep safe and protected from the infection. On the contrary, albeit availability of sexual education, this is not to say that it is no longer a problem. Many people are newly infected with HIV in America every year and statistics show that AIDS is now the leading killer disease especially in African American women, gay men as well drug users who use injections. There is still stigma about the disease and some people are still in denial.
They see AIDS as an overseas disease rather than a disease that is affecting the United States citizens. Except for the fact that there are successes in reduction of mother to child infections, AIDS still continues to affect the marginalized groups and receives little or no attention when it comes to funding necessary to effectively handle the problem. AIDS organizations continue to call for national strategies, but until their calls are heard and the nation responds to them, the infection will still remain a major problem lacking a permanent solution.
Amidst a nation that has struggled to rise to power in the past centuries, still lies a major barrier to its prosperity. HIV/AIDS is a chronic disease that should not be taken for granted. Its adverse effects can sweep out a future nation if not handled and controlled at a lower level. The youth and the adolescents are a very active group especially with the liberal media and permissive social norms that exist in modern world. AIDS education in schools has helped reduce the spread of the disease, but we cannot stop there.
It is upon society as a whole to take the initiative to support AIDS related organizations in reaching out to the young, the sick and the marginalized in order to create an AIDS free environment.
• CDC HIV/AIDS Surveillance Report, 2004. Vol. 16. Atlanta: US Department of Health and Human Services, CDC: 2005 • http://www. avert. org/aidseducation. htm • CDC. HIV/STD risks in young men who have sex with men who do not disclose their sexual orientation, 1994–2000 • http://www. cdc. gov/hiv/resources/Factsheets/youth. htm • http://www. aclu. org/reproductiverights/sexed/16424res19980409. html