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Noelle Edmonson




Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) and Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a threat in my community. The earliest that I can remember learning about AIDS was when I was younger; I decided to ask my mother about AIDS because she is the managing editor of medical books at the McGraw Hill Companies. I believed that she would know all bout AIDS, since it was a medical issue. She answered all of my questions, and I took away from our conversation that it was something that I never wanted to contract. My aunt also talked to me about STDs and AIDS because she was a nurse. She made sure that she told me to protect myself and to practice abstinence for as long as I can.

This topic was not truly brought up until I hit my sophomore year of high school in my health class. In that class I was educated about sexually transmitted diseases (STDs), birth control, using protection and then HIV/AIDS. My teacher stressed to our class and to the other students to use protection in order to decrease their chances of getting AIDS and other STDs. After learning about AIDS, the impression that I got was that it was a fatal disease. In my health class I was told that it is mandated by the State Department of Education to be taught about HIV and AIDS. My health teacher told our class about how and where to get tested. I knew that when I became sexually active that I would definitely want to get tested in order to protect myself and my future partner(s). However, I know some people who would not get tested because they are either afraid of what they might hear, or they believe that they cannot possibly get the virus because they protect themselves all the time. But I believe that no matter how many times a person says they have protected themselves, they should still get tested because it is better to be safe than sorry. There was no person that came in with the disease.

At that time I did not really think that AIDS was a problem where I live, which is in Yonkers. Thus I guessed that there were 230 cases of AIDS since 1980, but in actuality the number is 758. I also guessed that Mount Vernon would have the most cumulative AIDS cases because I’ve always heard that many people there had STDs and that the teenagers were very sexually. However, I was incorrect. Based on my research, I discovered that Yonkers had the highest cumulative AIDS cases in the entire Westchester. With a population of 923,459 Westchester County has an AIDS rate per 100,000 of 508.414.

Nevertheless, in the summer of my junior year I went to a leadership medical forum at Georgetown University, and there I learned about AIDS. A homosexual, African American, male, came in to speak to us about the disease. He was HIV positive and was trying not to stay strong so that the virus would not turn into full blown AIDS. I learned about the various medications that he had to take in order to keep is T cell count well above 200. The man told us about how it was to live with the disease. I clearly remember him being happy that he was still alive, and that he lived everyday of his life like it was going to be his last. He contracted the disease from his partner and I was surprised when he said that he bore no anger towards his partner. People talk all the time of how angry and depressed they would be if they found out that they had contracted the virus from their partners. I know that I would be highly upset.

            A couple of years ago I watched the movie Philadelphia. I learned a lot from that movie about AIDS and about how it can affect an individual. The movie itself affected me a lot. Especially the opera part because I could feel the pain in the main character’s voice and in his face. The movie gave me an actual visual of what Kaposi’s sarcoma (lesions) look like. The movie provided a visual of all the symptoms of AIDS, such as diarrhea, fatigue, and various illnesses. It helped to visually grasp the full extent of the AIDS virus. The movie also made me see to what extent the stigmatism around people with AIDS it was. No one wanted to be around the man and he was fired from his job because of it. However, it was interesting to learn, from the movie, that AIDS is a disability and it is against the law to discriminate against people with disabilities. Therefore, it was wrong for the character to be discriminated against, and then eventually fired from his job, just because he had AIDS.

            Growing up I did not really hear that much on the news about AIDS, partly because I did not watch the news very often. However, if I had been listening to the news regularly they would have most likely reported about what race specifically AIDS is mostly infecting, which I later found out for Yonkers, the blacks are and for Westchester County, the AIDS rate is highest in Caucasians. The news would have probably reported on the news about newly reported AIDS cases and ways to prevent getting infected.

            In my community the New York Times is a commonly read newspaper. It provides most of Westchester County with information about what is going on in our community and in the world. Since 1981 they have been reporting news about HIV/AIDS. In one New York Times Article from 1989, it discussed the problem of AIDS in Mount Vernon and the measures that the mayor at that time tried to take in order to fight the disease. They sought to marshal forces within the city to teach its population about the disease and insure that adequate health care is available to treat infected residents. Their Neighborhood Health Center provides comprehensive out-patient care for AIDS testing, counseling, and out-reach education programs. It had the second highest rate of AIDS in Westchester. Yonkers had the highest rate, which surprised me because Yonkers has continued to have the highest rate in Westchester. This was partly due to the population and to the fact that the people living there were poor, and used drugs. (1) Based on my research and the number of cumulative AIDS cases in Mount Vernon, it would seem as if Mount Vernon’s measures have not worked to reduce the AIDS rate.

            I searched online for the articles that I read at I read the article “AIDS Continues Move among Heterosexuals”. In this article I learned that in Westchester the rate AIDS/HIV diagnosis has increased among women and adolescents, especially among the minority group. Westchester County is working on counseling drug users and HIV positive people, in order to help stop the spread of the disease. This form of help has spread to Yonkers, which is good to know. It disturbed to me to read that the “women, heterosexuals, and adolescents are groups in which the rate of increase of infection is rising,” (2) because this article was published in 1998, which means that the rate has most likely increased since then. If I would have read this article before I made my guesses, then my guesses may have been more accurate.

            “When AIDS Hits Home” is another article that disturbed me. I learned that there are more people living with HIV and AIDS in Westchester than ever before. As I was reading this article I could not figure out why. I would think that the rate would have decreased a little because of the awareness of the diseases as time has passed since the 1980s. However, it seemed that because people with HIV were living longer, due to the treatments, they had more time to live and to spread the disease. (3) I never thought that there would be a negative side to having treatment for HIV positive people, but after reading that article, it seemed so. This also does nothing to decrease the rate of the diseases in both heterosexual women and adolescents. I believe that not many people in Westchester know these numbers because once someone finds out that another person has the disease, a stigmatism is created. There was a very good quote that I read in this article and it says: “…negligence of AIDS is a form of racism. There is no other disease that is disproportionately impacting people of color as this one”- Dr. Lipsman. The cumulative AIDS rate in Westchester for Caucasians is 160.17. The rate for Hispanics is 598.789; and for African Americans the cumulative AIDS rate is 354.401. It is obvious that the white people have the lowest AIDS rate out of the three races and this is most likely because they are knowledgeable about the virus, how to protect themselves, and where to go for help if they were to become infected. This is not so among the blacks and Hispanics in Westchester, and I feel that way because every billboard sign or advertisement for the protection against AIDS that I see in the train stations, always has either a Hispanic, or African American on it. This indicates that the problem of AIDS is mainly among the African Americans and Hispanics. The AIDS rate of New York State of these races is different than of Westchester County. The rate for Caucasians is 135.095; for blacks the rate is 390.679; for Hispanics the rate is 257.808. This shows the disparity  between the rates of the state and of the county.

This quote and the following paragraphs made me realize that he had a good point and that it was the truth. There is no negligence of AIDS when it’s a white heterosexual woman. It is sure to make the news. The article also stated that more and more African American women were contracting the disease. Before, there was a gap in the percentages between the rate of males and females contracting the disease. That gap has lessened.

            The article “The Woes of Care at the County Jail” says that in Yonkers, there is a drug treatment program that is run by one of the hospitals, which is very helpful. (4) The article says that inmates also get infected by the disease. I was not surprised by this because I always heard that because inmates in jail are far away from their partners, they have no one there to satisfy their sexual desires. Thus they have intercourse with many other inmates and the spread the disease. The disease spreads so rapidly because condoms are not given out in jails because of the fear that they will promote sexual intercourse in the jails. The article influenced my perception about the disease in Westchester because it allowed me to see to what extent the virus has spread, which leads me to believe that most people in Westchester are probably infected with HIV or have full blown AIDS.

            I also did research on males and females in Westchester that have AIDS. The rate of AIDS in men is greater than that of women in Westchester. The rate of AIDS per 100,000 in men is 757.263, and in women the rate is 280.235. I was not too surprised at these numbers when I did the research because I watched media coverage, and specials,  about African American men on the down low, and how because they are on the down low they infect their women partners with the virus because they do not tell them that they are on the down low. Therefore, I had some idea of what the numbers might look like for both males and females.

            From the data that I collected from my research and from examining media coverage, it appears that MSM and drug use are one of the main causes of the increase in the rate of HIV/AIDS in Westchester. I was surprised by these results because I did not think that there was much MSM going on in my community. From my research I learned that the smaller the larger the population the larger the percent of AIDS/HIV rate increase. Even the smallest increase in the rate of contracting the virus in heterosexual women, make the percentage number larger. It was good to find out that the rate of AIDS per 100,000 people in Westchester was lower than that of New York’s (5).  All of my research has taught me about my community and how much at risk my community, the state of New York, and the nation, is.


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  1. Brenner, Elisa. “In Mount Vernon, an Attempt to Tackle AIDS at the Community Level” New York Times 20 Aug. 1989
  2. Lombardi, Kate Stone. “AIDS Continues Move Among Heterosexuals” New York Times 4 Oct. 1998
  3. Lombardi, Kate Stone. “When AIDS Hits Home” New York Times 25 Jan. 2004
  4. Lombardi, Kate Stone. “The Woes of Care at the County Jail.” New York Times 10 Jul. 2005
  5. Bureau of HIV/AIDS Epidemiology New York State Department of Health. New York State HIV/AIDS Surveillance Semiannual Report: For Cases Diagnosed through December 2005.