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AIDS day to focus on young people

Nov. 18, 1998

BY JULIA MCKENZIE

Reporter

Julia_McKenzie@baylor.edu

The 11th annual World AIDS Day theme, 'Force For Change: World AIDS Campaign with Young People,' was inspired by the fact that five young people are infected with HIV every minute, according to The Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS).

However, many young people don't fully realize that AIDS could 'happen' to them, according to Baylor's student outreach coordinator Andrea King.

'When I do presentations on AIDS and talk about statistics, young people are just shocked,' King said. 'They don't understand that it could happen to anybody.'

Since 1988, Dec. 1 has been recognized as World AIDS Day in every country. The World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programs for AIDS Prevention founded the day to strengthen communication about the disease and create a social tolerance for it, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services.

Since the day's founding, the World Health Assembly, the United Nations system and communities and individuals around the world have united in its support.

According to UNAIDS, the main goal of the World AIDS Day is 'to mobilize young people to reduce the spread of HIV infection and to strengthen support for young people infected and affected by HIV/AIDS to promote and protect their human rights.'

UNAIDS reported that it decided to focus this year's campaign on young people for two reasons: 50 percent of people newly infected with HIV are 10 to 24 years old, and young people have the power to change the course of the epidemic. Therefore, while young people are particularly vulnerable to HIV infection, UNAIDS sees them as a key to eliciting an affective response.

King said she agreed with UNAIDS' reasons for focusing World AIDS Day on young people and emphasized the impact education can have on any health concern.

'The kids of today are the next generation,' King said. 'Education is essential and there is an appropriate education for each age group. If kids don't know the risk factors, they can't make good choices for themselves.'

Baylor's Health Education and Wellness Department has designated November as AIDS Awareness Month and Nov. 16 through Friday as AIDS Awareness Week.

'We do our programming now because of finals. December gets too hectic,' King said.

In recognition of the week, Jonathan Hunter, from Embracing Life Ministries of California, spoke during both sessions of Chapel Forum and at noon Monday in Barfield Drawing Room of the Bill Daniel Student Center.

Hunter's presentation, titled 'Sex, Love and Relationships in the Age of AIDS,' centered on the idea that risky sexual behaviors can lead to spiritual and mental degradation, as well as AIDS. Hunter, who is HIV positive, said he was speaking from experience.

King suggested students and staff stop by the student center today to see parts of the AIDS Names Quilt and to hang a ribbon on the AIDS Red Ribbon Tree.

'It's really a compassion tree,' King said. 'Students can write down their opinions and feelings about the disease and hang them on the tree.'

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