‘Winning the battle, losing the war’

Kelly Petryszyn

Associate professor shares current HIV/AIDS facts as part of education week

Dr. Diane Kerr discussed current statisitcs on AIDS and HIV cases in the United States at Thursday’s discussion as part of International Education week. Kevin Stone | Daily Kent Stater

Credit: DKS Editors

Each day, almost 7,500 people are infected with HIV, and 5,500 other people die from AIDS.

These are some of the facts associate professor Diane Kerr gave yesterday during her presentation, “HIV/AIDS in the US and World: Winning the Battle, But Losing the War” in the Governance Chambers as part of International Education Week.

Kerr’s goal, based on her research, is to stop HIV/AIDS from spreading, achieve universal access to treatment and combat malaria and other diseases.

“People are living longer but still infectious,” she said. “Unless (they) know and take precautions, (they) can infect others.”

Kerr said about 33 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. Of those, blacks account for 49 percent of all cases diagnosed.

Even so, she said advances in treatment have allowed people with HIV/AIDS to live longer.

“We are winning the battle with treatment,” Kerr said, referring to the drug AZT’s effectiveness in reducing HIV transmissions from mother to child.

But Kerr said “we are losing the war” because the United States doesn’t have a national AIDS strategy, nor is it funding prevention adequately.

Kerr, who called herself a member of the “condom crowd,” said there needs to be a shift from abstinence-only education to comprehensive sexual education, citing a Kent State survey to illustrate student perceptions of sex.

A sample of 367 Kent State freshmen showed 74 percent consider themselves virgins if they have had oral-genital contact. Also 4.6 percent of students consider themselves virgins if they have had penile-vaginal sex.

Kerr said abstinence-only education is “not working that well” because students do not believe they are at risk of contracting sexually transmitted infections.

“One in four 14- to 19-year-old young women has an STI,” she said.

Graduate student Lisa Vargas said she agrees people need comprehensive education.

“People are sexual, and to expect people to suppress their sexuality is unrealistic,” she said.

Kerr said people should make it their goal to distribute more condoms worldwide, achieve more leadership at every level and get approval of drugs for treatment, in addition to being educated about the topic.

“Don’t be a victim of AIDS complacency,” she said. “Let’s do what we can.”

Contact news correspondent Kelly Petryszyn at [email protected].