Organizations reach out to younger generation about HIV/AIDS

DAYTON, Ohio (WDTN) — As new drugs make it easier to combat the spread of HIV and AIDS, organizations are finding a growing amount of young adults are not aware of the diseases.

At least twice a week, Randle Moore might ask people some seemingly personal questions.

“How are you? Have you been tested yet,” said Moore, a Community Engagement Coordinator for Equitas Health.

On a recent Saturday afternoon, Moore along with several volunteers are helping people get tested for HIV and AIDS during the Levin Family Foundation Health Fair.

“Community service is my passion,” said Moore. “It’s basically being able to engage with the community on various levels.”

Part of that engagement means talking about HIV and AIDS to a younger generation including his peers.

It is the young adults experts said represent the highest number of new infections every year across the country.

“Young people today very often don’t know or don’t think they know anybody living with HIV,” said Bill Hardy, President and CEO of Equitas Health. “‘It can’t happen to me. I’m 20. What could happen to me’.”

It is a mentality the staff at Equitas Health are trying to change by keeping the public aware of the diseases.

Every year, Hardy said more than a thousand people in Ohio will be diagnosed, and more than a hundred others will go unchecked.

Through community gatherings and partnerships, a group of volunteers can travel to universities, bars, or areas believed to be at high-risk of spreading HIV and AIDS.

When it comes to educating the public, a recent study showed a Hollywood celebrity’s own public admittance of being HIV-positive has helped raise awareness around the country.

A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association Internal Medicine showed Charlie Sheen’s announcement in November 2015 led to the largest amount of HIV-related searches online.

Researchers saw a 540 percent increase in searches for HIV symptoms, and a 214 percent increase related to HIV testing.

Experts said for those who seek treatment, there are paths to a normal life.

“I started here in 1993 and an AIDS diagnoses was a death sentence,” said Hardy. “Thanks to treatment, if we get folks virally supressed today, meaning they’re on medications, they’re taking their medications, and they’ve got the virus under control, life expectancy is near normal and it’s almost impossible for them to infect anybody else.”

Part of the fight against infection is the use of a pill called PrEP, which stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis.

Hardy said the pill has proven be 92 to 100 percent effective in stopping the spread of HIV.

Between patients in both Dayton and Columbus, more than 300 people have been prescribed the pill.

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