Cal State marks World AIDS Day, says there's a lot left to change

Ryan Hagen, Staff Writer
San Bernardino Sun
Posted: 12/01/2011 07:25:53 PM PST
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SAN BERNARDINO - The world has come a long way since 1981, when the Centers for Disease Control reported the first diseases that would be tied to HIV/AIDS and touched off a confused panic, speakers said Thursday as Cal State San Bernardino marked World AIDS Day.

In 30 years, public knowledge and treatment possibilities have increased dramatically, said Kim Clark, a Cal State professor - but statistics can't replace empathy and action.

"We think in terms of graphs, we think in terms of charts, we think in terms of maps," Clark said, "and we forget to focus on the faces of this epidemic that has so devastated Africa."

After showing pictures of the effect AIDS has on Africa - a continent where limited health care contributes to millions of AIDS cases, often spread from mother to child through breast milk - Clark also warned against thinking that HIV only affects foreign or marginal groups.

"You have to stop focusing on things like race and sexual orientation and realize it's (common in) the communities that have the least access to care," he said. "It's not a problem because of pigmentation. It's a problem because of decisions made at the state, local and national level."

Clark noted, for instance, that President George W. Bush's decision to block federal funding to international groups that offer abortions or abortion counseling meant less funding for agencies that also provide condoms and information about preventing sexually transmitted diseases.

"As a result of that, many people probably died," he said.

Funding for those groups was blocked by President Reagan and restored by President Clinton. Two days after taking office, President Obama reversed Bush's policy.

Other speakers were no less hard-hitting, blaming politics and squeamishness for the spread of HIV.

Feel-good campaigns are fine, but mandatory* testing for HIV and aggressive treatment are long overdue, said Ronald Hattis, a Redlands physician and the president of an organization called Beyond AIDS.

*Correction from Beyond AIDS: Dr. Hattis advocated routine but not mandatory testing.

"Every year, on World AIDS Day, red ribbons are displayed, but they do not prevent the spread of HIV," Hattis said. "It is time that we treat HIV/AIDS as the infectious disease that it is, and that we change our policies and laws so that we can apply the most effective techniques that work with other infections."
Hattis said the disease could be stopped in its tracks if people got over the stigma and treated AIDS like other epidemics - identify people with HIV by testing, refer them for immediate treatment and at the same time contact and identify all of their sexual partners.

Thursday's commemoration comes two days after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released a report saying nearly three out of four Americans infected with HIV - 850,000 out of 1.2million - aren't getting enough medicine or regular care to stay healthy or prevent themselves from transmitting the virus to others.

HIV testing - a cheek swab, with results known within minutes - was available Thursday at Cal State, and is often available through the San Bernardino County Department of Health and other organizations.

"We want people to realize HIV and AIDS is something anyone can have, not just the LGBT community," said Deejay Brown, a student leader with the campus Pride Center, referring to lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender people.
The Pride Center was the main organizers of the event.

"Being born into a culture where HIV and AIDS are already present - things have changed a lot," Brown said. "It's not the death sentence it once was, but it's still something that changes lives." AIDS history

1981: The first diagnosis of what later became known as AIDS is made.

1982: In January, the first American AIDS clinic is established in San Francisco.

1983: The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) establish the National AIDS Hotline to respond to public inquiries about the disease.

Dr. Robert Gallo, at the National Institutes of Health (NIH), suggests that a retrovirus probably causes AIDS.

1984: Gallo and Professor Luc Montagnier, from the Pasteur Institute in France, announce that Montagnier's Lymphadenopathy Associated Virus (LAV) and Gallo's HTLV-III virus are likely identical and probably are the cause of AIDS.

Actor Rock Hudson dies of AIDS-related illness on Oct. 2.

1990: On April 8, Ryan White, 18, dies of AIDS-related illness.

1991: Basketball star Earvin "Magic" Johnson announces that he is HIV-positive.

1992: AIDS becomes the number one cause of death for U.S. men ages 25 to 44.

1995: By year's end, 500,000 cases of AIDS have been reported in the U.S.

1997: In response to the call to "hit early, hit hard," highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) becomes the new standard of HIV care.

1999: The World Health Organization (WHO) announces that HIV/AIDS has become the fourth biggest killer worldwide and the number one killer in Africa. 2001: The CDC announce a new HIV Prevention Strategic Plan to cut annual HIV infections in the U.S. by half within five years.

2004: In January, the U.S. Congress authorizes the first $350 million for the United States President's Emergency Program for AIDS Relief (PEPFAR).

2004: At the end of the year, an estimated 1,147,697 HIV or AIDS cases had been diagnosed and reported to the CDC.

2008: Sept. 18 is the first observance of National HIV/AIDS and Aging Awareness Day.

2010: On March 23, President Barack Obama signs the Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act, which offers special protections for those living with chronic illnesses, like HIV, that make it difficult for them to access or afford health care.

2011: Public debate begins on whether the longstanding ban on transplants of HIV-infected organs should be dropped.

President Barack Obama pledges increased U.S. support to help 6 million people in countries hardest hit by the virus get access to antiretroviral drugs by the end of 2013.
Sources:, The Associated Press, Centers for Disease Control
Reach Ryan via email, or call him at 909-386-3916.

**Note from Beyond AIDS: This applies to providing transplants to other HIV positive patients.


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