Tuesday, November 13, 2007

I no longer know how to jump rope

I know longer know how to jump rope or double dutch so don't ask me to play with your kids. Now that I have your attention please read this very interesting article on HIV and a man named John Kevin P.
John Kevin P. (not his actual name) comes from a family of three brothers and two sisters and of them; two of the five are living with HIV/AIDS.

Kevin P., for the sake of his family members, wants to keep his illness quiet, so Kevin is not his real name.

"When my sister was diagnosed it was before the disease had a name. She was diagnosed in 1979," he said.

Her only symptom, he said, was her boyfriend's unexpected death.

By the time the words GRID, (gay related immune deficiency) or, Slim (how researchers said the affected population in Africa referred to the disease), AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) and more recently HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) were known, Kevin was had already been diagnosed.

In 1996 at the age of 46, he told his partner about the diagnosis. His partner was in shock when Kevin told him and got retested. Although they are still friends and his partner didn't become angry, he still moved out-of-state. He said he and his partner were having unprotected sex.

"I didn't think I was positive or my partner. The tests didn't always show in those days. The tests were not as sensitive and weren't always picking it up," he said.

Kevin said he wasn't bitter when he found out, he took it in stride. He looks at his disease the same way a person who has heart disease would, he said.

"These things are going to happen. It is to be treated as any other public health concern. Are you not going to have a breast exam because of the public stigma? --No," he said.

The 52-year-old gay, white male is a stroke victim and wants retain some anonimity as he, in his own way, educates others about the disease--which is easier now since he has become disabled after having a total of four strokes.

"My only recover is to be involved. The main thing I'm trying to do is get people to care.

But even with being involved he says there is a stigma attached to having the disease, which is why he stays within the realm of those who walk his same path.



"You have to understand, Palm Beach County is very unique were the only county in the state that has the health care district covers health care not just hospital care. A lack of insurance keeps them from seeking services," he said.

Wednesday June 27 is National HIV Test Day. The Palm Beach County health Department in conjunction with it's community health partners organized a number of sites starting June 24 to June 27 to test for the virus that causes AIDS.

Kevin said this would be the first year since his positive diagnosis that he won't be participating because of health concerns.

"We have seen 450 new HIV infections in each of the last two years. With the advances in the diagnosis and treatment of HIV/AIDS people need to know their status to be able to take advantage of these advancements and control their health. It's better to know," PBC Health Department Director, Dr. Jean Malecki said.

Health officials said Palm Beach County is unique in that their numbers of HIV/AIDS are always high. According to the 2000 U.S. Census, over 230,000 Haitians live in Florida, making the state home to the largest Haitian population in the U.S., followed by New York. At one point, the Haitian community had been blamed for the high numbers but that has changed.

"It's not limited to the Haitian community. Statistically, there is no way of telling if the Haitian female or Jamaican or any other African-Caribbean race is being affected because statistics aren't broken down that way," Tim O’Connor, spokesman for the PBC Health Department said. The statistics show information broken down to White, Black, Hispanic, and other most times.

He said the most troubling fact is that there are 38 new HIV diagnoses each month.

A study conducted in 2002 by the PBC Health Department shows there are hot spots where teen pregnancy rates and risky sexual behavior are highest.

Lake Worth, West Palm Beach, Pahokee, Belle Glade, West Palm Beach/Haverhill, Riviera Beach, Delray Beach, Canal Point, Boynton Beach, and West Palm Beach/Greenacres, are areas where women ages 15 to 19 are having babies and engaging in risky behavior.

Additionally, health department officials say women in their childbearing years are the fastest growing group of HIV positive patients. Studies also show in 2002, Black children accounted for 90 percent of the total pediatric AIDS cases in Palm Beach County and the state led the U.S. with the highest number of pediatric AIDS cases.

Estimates show that as many as 25,000 of the 100,000 HIV infected persons in the state don't know their HIV status, information from the Palm Beach County Health Department said.

Comprehensive AIDS Program South County Regional Manager Kai Johnson and Rose Joseph are two of three regional managers that will help coordinate the county testing this month. Johnson said beware of statistics because they don’t tell the whole story.

"At one time there was a large incidence of HIV/AIDS that began with the Haitian community but that hasn't really been true for a number of years now," Johnson said.

CAP statistics show in December 2002, an estimated 5957 blacks (includes African Americans, Haitians, Jamaicans and all Caribbean Islanders) were living with HIV or AIDS in Palm Beach County, representing 67 percent of all those living with HIV/AIDS in the county at that time.

Within the state, 1 in 46 Blacks are affected by HIV/AIDS and one out of 131 people living in Palm Beach County is living with HIV/AIDS.
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