AIDS education down while infections rise

Sarah Cockrell

Funding for HIV/AIDS education has been decreasing, but the number of new HIV/AIDS cases continues to rise.

Researchers at Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School and the Kaiser Family Foundation conducted a study that indicated decreased funding for HIV/AIDS prevention education contributes to increases of HIV/AIDS cases. The study looked at funding during the last 20 years, said Kat Holtz, HIV prevention specialist at Townhall II.

In Portage County and the city of Kent, 1 percent of the population has HIV/AIDS, said Holtz.

Holtz runs an HIV program at Townhall II where she teaches patients about HIV and AIDS and how to prevent getting the disease. It allows her to do presentations locally at different colleges and other organizations, but it is determined by the amount of funding it receives. Townhall II has also seen a slight decrease in funding for its HIV program, Holtz said.

Holtz said Townhall II’s HIV program will be available as long as the funding is provided. Anyone interested in sending donations may send them to:

Attn: HIV Program

155 N. Water St.

Kent, Ohio 44240.

A receipt may be requested.

Townhall II currently offers free HIV testing to the public. The tests will continue to be offered at no charge as long as Townhall II receives the funding it needs to provide them, Holtz said. If funding continues to decrease, a fee may be added to cover costs.

Townhall II has recently transitioned from the OraSure tests to the OraQuick tests. The new tests allow same day results for patients.

Ohio law promotes “abstinence-only” education in schools, Holtz said. The message students receive is “don’t have sex.”

According to the Centers for Disease Control, in 2005, 47 percent of high school students have had sex and 14 percent of high school students have had sex with four or more partners.

In Ohio, most schools do not teach comprehensive sexuality education for fear of losing funding, said Holtz. The government does not allocate funding for this type of education.

In some cases, the Ohio government has allowed it in places such as the Cleveland and Canton City school districts – areas with students who have higher pregnancy rates and are at a higher risk for sexually transmitted infections.

“Some teenagers and adults don’t know the basics of anatomy,” Holtz said. “They don’t know how diseases are transmitted.”

To help prevent the spread of HIV/AIDS and other sexually transmitted infections, always use a condom or dental dam, she suggests.

“Everyone knows not to have unprotected sex, but they don’t know what that means,” Holtz said.

Safe sex involves having no contact with any bodily fluids in the eyes, mouth, nose, genitals or anal areas.

Communication is also very important in the prevention of HIV/AIDS.

“Talk about it,” Holtz said.

There is no second chance with this virus. Once a person gets the disease, it will always be present in the body. There is no cure.

Contact on-campus medicine reporter Sarah Cockrell at [email protected].