With AIDS, ‘silence is deadly’

This year, 2006, is special. It’s an anniversary. However there is no celebratory event, no cake, no cards or a champagne toast. Most people don’t even know that 25 years ago the discovery of HIV/AIDS changed the world. Since 1981, HIV has infected more than 45 million people according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The sight of red ribbons on the lapels of the Hollywood A-list was once common and trendy. It has now been replaced with a pink ribbon. Breast cancer prevention is the new celebrity cause.

Pink cell phones, doggy collars and bracelets are all dedicated to a cure for cancer. Katie Couric invited the nation to watch her colonoscopy live on television to encourage people to get tested for cancer.

I want to know where AIDS went. It certainly didn’t disappear.

When did America grow apathetic? Where are the red cell phones and vanity license plates? Where have all the red ribbons gone?

Aug. 24 ABC News Primetime talked about AIDS in black America. That re-invigorated my desire to speak, to see and to hear about AIDS. According to the documentary, 50 percent of the newly diagnosed were black.

I bring that statistic to light, not to disparage black Americans, but to let people know that the disease has not gone away. It is not just affecting blacks. It is on the rise in black America because of so many factors, the most important of which is a lack of knowledge.

But is it just Black America that shuns this disease into silence? No, it is an attitude that transcends the entire globe. Many believe that AIDS is isolated to Third world countries and the poor people who inhabit them. America, the world’s wealthiest nation, spends more money in Africa than it does domestically. HIV diagnoses are still occurring even though simple measures can prevent transmission.

I recently asked several sexually-active friends when they had an HIV test. Only one could answer that he’d been tested. The state of Kentucky says that more than 150 diagnosed HIV positive people live in Boone, Kenton and Campbell counties. It may seem small, but consider what the number would be if everyone who lives in those counties were tested.

Have you had an HIV test? Are you celibate? If you answered no to both, you could have HIV. The only way to know is to get tested.

These questions need to be asked. The transmission of HIV is preventable. This disease kills, despite the advances in science. We, as America’s youth, need to see AIDS for what it is: a plague that can be prevented. We need to hear about AIDS because education is a cure for ignorance. We need to speak out about AIDS because we are the generation that could end this disease. Apathy and ignorance aren’t excuses. They are a shame.

When it comes to AIDS, silence is deadly.

Gabe Cronon

Staff Writer