Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Education key in HIV, AIDS prevention, 30 years later

via  The Sun News, By Brad Dickerson                                                                                                                                     Brian Hardee wanted to educate other college students about the importance of getting tested for HIV, so he went through the steps himself and presented it as a series of informative speeches.

No one in his speech class will probably ever forget the last one.

"The final speech was how I took the news after the news came back I was HIV positive. So, that's how I found out," Hardee said. "Let's just say I made a 100 in that speech class."

The Myrtle Beach resident was diagnosed with the disease in 1994 while he was a student at the American College for the Applied Arts in Atlanta.

Today, Hardee considers himself a medical miracle. A combination of strong medication and a lifestyle change that included kicking a 10-year drug habit has given him a healthy immune system and longer life than those who were diagnosed with HIV in its early days.

Experts say these stronger drugs are both a blessing and a curse in 2011, 30 years since the first documented cases of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, or AIDS, in the United States. Those who are diagnosed are living longer, healthier lives, but it's also creating complacency and apathy in the younger people who now find themselves at risk.

The Los Angeles Times reported that AIDS has killed nearly 30 million people worldwide, including an estimated 500,000 in the United States. Today, another 34 million people - including nearly 1.2 million in the U.S. - are living with the virus that causes the disease, human immunodeficiency virus, or HIV. This year, about 1.8 million of them will die, including about 17,000 in this country.

By the end of 2010, there were 736 known HIV/AIDS patients living in Horry County, according to statistics from the S.C. Department of Health and Environmental Control. There are 356 who have AIDS.

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