Learn more about AIDS

Published 12:00 am Wednesday, November 30, 2005

Watching someone you love die of any disease is tough – and perhaps no disease takes a greater toll on the body than AIDS. With a weakened immune system, those who suffer from the disease are susceptible to every kind of bacteria or infection present in our environment.

Simple ailments that could be quickly cured in a person with a working immune system are life-threatening to those with AIDS.

More than 1 million people in the United States are living with AIDS/HIV, according to figures from the Center for Disease Control. The truly frightening part of that statistic is that 24 to 27 percent of those do not know they have the virus.

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While about half a million people have died of AIDS in the United States, worldwide the statistics are staggering.

More than 25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, according to AVERT, an international AIDS/HIV charity. Africa has 12 million AIDS orphans. By December 2005, women accounted for 46 percent of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and for 57 percent in sub-Saharan Africa.

Young people (15 to 24 years old) account for half of all new HIV infections worldwide – more than 6,000 become infected with HIV every day.

Today, Selma AIR (AIDS Information and Referral) will host its 10th annual educational forum to help inform the public about the reality of this disease. The first event will take place this evening at Ward Chapel Church on Philpot Avenue from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m.

The professional and community educational forum titled “The Real Disease is Stigma, Fear and Denial, Not HIV/AIDS in the African American Community,” will be held Friday from 9 a.m. to noon at the Selma-Dallas County Public Library.

If those figures from sub-Saharan Africa don’t frighten you – perhaps these will: HIV/AIDS is currently the leading cause of death among African-Americans ages 25 to 44 and African-American women are roughly two-thirds of all new HIV infections among women.

African-American males equate 50 percent of all new infections among men and the same percentage is among new infections of those over the age of 55.

Selma AIR officials say these numbers represent

“an alarming crisis in African America.”

Even more alarming, they say, is the lack of response by members of the African-American community.

Apparently, a stigma exists concerning those who are living with AIDS in this country and in the Selma community today.

Learn more about the disease in order to protect yourself, but also to be better prepared to help others who live with AIDS/HIV.