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You think you know but you have no idea!
I have lived in Wappingers Falls since 1998. It is a suburban town in Dutchess County where billboards or vast numbers of buses with AIDS (Acute Immunodeficiency Syndrome) awareness ads are not commonly seen. Wappingers Falls appears to be a quiet town with very minimal amount of crime. According to “Sperling’s Best Places” web site, on a scale from 1(low crime) to 10(high crime), Wappingers Falls is 2 (11). In Wappingers Falls, AIDS was never really an issue that was brought up or just talked about among the townspeople. For most people, it was merely something only heard about on TV shows like MTV which holds concerts like “Staying Alive” for AIDS awareness (12).
The very first time I heard of AIDS was at a very young age. I do not remember exactly how old exactly I was but I remembered that I was under ten years old and all I had on my mind was playing with matchbox cars. My brother had mentioned AIDS to my father one time when he was watching TV and all I heard was that it was a disease that was killing many people. Other than that, at that time, AIDS was just another word I came to know. I was further exposed to details of AIDS in Health class in 10th grade. It was a required course where it focused on health issues for one semester. The class covered subjects on sexually transmitted diseases, the negative consequences of drugs and a short lection on AIDS. From what I can remember the AIDS lection touched on how a person could not get AIDS from casual contact like kissing or hugging, how there is no cure for AIDS and how safe sex and not doing drugs would prevent getting the disease. I believe that the course was informative but I did not believe that it really got the focus of my classmates in the class. With that said, I felt like health class’s take on AIDS was not effective in having the students well informed and aware about the danger and impact of AIDS.
My first and only job was a dietary aid in a nursing home, currently called, Elant at Wappingers. In this particular time of my life when worked in Elant at Wappingers, I encountered the very first person in my life that had AIDS. One of my co-workers who had been working there for about five years mentioned to me that one of the residents had AIDS. She was an old black woman that seemed to me like a normal human being with no evident “look” that she had AIDS. This was a reality check for me and quite alarming also because it was scary knowing that someone who looks normal like you and me actually has AIDS or even just HIV, (human immunodeficiency virus). My encounter with the AIDS lady not only broadened my perception of AIDS in my community but also alerted my mind that it truly is a sad disease that people should learn more about to become more aware of it.
AIDS is an unfortunate epidemic that has had a great impact in our nation. It has already killed many people and it is very unfortunate that there is still much more to learn about AIDS. AIDS is scary, mysterious and unpredictable. As Sue Aren’t said in an article in which I strongly agree with, “AIDS does not choose its victims; rather it just goes after anyone, all types of races, genders and ages (11).” According to Dutchess County Department of Health, they said that more than 10 percent of all new AIDS cases in the United States occur in people over 50 (1).” This is very alarming because it provides a sense that a person should always be aware and be on his or her guard about AIDS because a person can get AIDS at any age or time in their life.
Sadly, there are many people who are not aware of the impact of AIDS. However, the media plays a vital role of informing the public about AIDS. Whether it is through billboards, commercials, TV shows, or even from magazines, the media has the power to pull audiences into the depth of the mysterious and deadly effect of AIDS. Teenagers and young people today are easily influenced by what they see on TV, especially if their favorite actor or singer is who they are watching. AIDS should be a topic that is more exposed and stressed to the public by the elite entertainers of today to inform the public.
Though I have seen parts of a concert on MTV providing awareness of AIDS, briefly hearing about AIDS in health class and seeing an actual AIDS infected person, I do however feel that I still lack knowledge about AIDS; even about AIDS in my own home town and own county. As one can see from Table 1, 1a and 1b, it displays the zip codes/towns and their very own AIDS rates. I have come to learn that some of the numbers were quite shocking. This is greatly due to the fact that the numbers were straightforward and not just a whole confusing article that rambles about AIDS, which in turn is not captivating or effective in grabbing the reader’s attention. My guess of the cumulative AIDS cases since 1980 of my hometown of Wappingers Falls, (zip code 12590) before the real numbers were revealed was 65. It was actually 40 AIDS cases (see table 1). Wappingers Falls’ AIDS rate of 119.32 per 100,000 was not very alarming being that national average rate was 339.71 per 100,000. This is not alarming because the difference between the national AIDS rate with the AIDS rate of Wappingers Falls is about a three-fold difference. This just shows that there is no serious threat of AIDS in my town. Even looking at the AIDS rate for the living AIDS cases in Wappingers Falls (see table 1a), Wappingers Falls has an AIDS rate of 50.71. This particular AIDS rate is less than half the AIDS rate of the cumulative AIDS cases in Wappingers Falls since 1980. And as far as living HIV cases are concerned, the AIDS rate still shows no threat in my town (see table 1b). The AIDS rate for living HIV cases is 38.78. This is about one-fourth the AIDS rate of the cumulative AIDS cases in Wappingers Falls since 1980. This may just be correlated with the crime rate in Wappingers Falls, being that the crime rate is at a 2, on a scale of 1(lowest)-10(highest) (11). The shocking town with such a high cumulative AIDS rate was that of Stormville’s, (zip code 12582). The AIDS rate was 2219.78. That is about seven times the national AIDS rate. Though this number says that there is an AIDS rate within that town, it may just be because of the federal prison there, Green Haven Correctional Facility (2). My actual guess for the cumulative AIDS cases in Stormville since 1980 was actually 15 in the beginning. Come to find out, the cumulative AIDS cases in Stormville was a little under seven times more than my guess; Stormville had 101 cumulative AIDS cases since 1980. I was completely wrong about Stormville. My lack of knowledge about the history, the environment and the place of Stormville can probably attribute to my mistake of guessing a low cumulative AIDS rate there.
As a whole, Dutchess County has an overall of 938 AIDS cases with regards to the cumulative AIDS cases since 1980. My guess in the beginning for the cumulative AIDS cases in Dutchess County since 1980 was 685. I think my guess may have been due to the fact that I rarely got to really drive around Dutchess County. I was only familiar with a few towns like Fishkill, Beacon and a small part of Poughkeepsie (see map 1). The AIDS rate in Dutchess County was 334.82 per 100,000 (see table 2). The Dutchess County rate is just about the same as the national average AIDS rate. Does this mean that Dutchess County poses a serious AIDS threat within the county? I presume that an AIDS rate equal to the national AIDS rate does not signify that there is a threat, at least not a serious one. Dutchess County is active in providing awareness within the community. According to the Department of Health: 2007 News Releases, the Dutchess County Department of Health launches annual HIV Testing Day. The goal is to increase knowledge about AIDS among the people of Dutchess County and make HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) testing a routine and reduce the stigma associated with HIV (3). The living AIDS cases data table (see table 2a) shows that the AIDS rate for Dutchess County is 146.35 per 100,000. This is about half the AIDS rate for the cumulative AIDS cases in Dutchess County. As for the living HIV Cases in Dutchess County, the AIDS rate is 79.24 per 100,000, which is about one-fourth the AIDS rate of the cumulative AIDS cases in Dutchess County (see table 2b). This drop of the AIDS rates from cumulative AIDS cases to living HIV cases may be due to the help of single individuals and even organizations that help make changes within the community regarding AIDS. For instance, according to the Sunday July 25, 2004 Poughkeepsie journal, Josie Gray, a 31 year old Beacon resident raised more than $2,000 for further AIDS investigation with regards to vaccines and more specified information about AIDS(4). In addition to fundraising accomplishments, in September 30, 2006, AIDS-Related Community Services (ARCS), held a two-mile fundraising walk to Waryas Park Poughkeepsie (5).
According to data tables 3, 3a, and 3b, males have a higher percentage of cumulative AIDS cases, living AIDS cases and living HIV cases, respectively. According to the Eulalee Thompson, men's promiscuity and machismo make them and their families vulnerable to AIDS (13). They pay less attention to sexual health and safety, have more sexual partners than women, and engage in more high-risk behavior that puts them at risk for HIV/AIDS (13). HIV is more easily transmitted sexually from men to women than vice versa (13). My guess for the percent of the cumulative AIDS cases since 1980 that have been diagnosed in Dutchess County are female was 20%. The real percentage was actually 23% (see table 3). Luck may have added to the closeness of my guess with the actual percentage, but I actually have heard that men have a higher risk of getting HIV/AIDS than women from my health teacher and other people. The ratio of men to women for the percentage of the cumulative AIDS cases since 1980 that have been diagnosed in Dutchess County was about 3:2. However, the living AIDS cases data (see table 3a) and the living HIV cases data (see table 3b) shows that the ratio is closer to a 1:1 ratio.
With regards to race, AIDS in Dutchess County affects more black people than any other race. The cumulative AIDS cases (see table 4) shows that the AIDS rate among Blacks in Dutchess County is 1471.43 per 100,000 while Hispanics have a rate close to that but lower, 1084.18 per 100,000. The whites however, only have a rate of 148.25 per 100,000. The AIDS rate of Blacks is about a tenfold of the AIDS rates of whites. Even the living AIDS cases (see table 4a) shows that Blacks hold the highest AIDS rate. Also for the living AIDS cases, the AIDS rate of Blacks shows a tenfold increase of the AIDS rate of Whites. As for the living AIDS cases, Blacks still have the highest rate of 333.37 per 100,000 while Whites have 39.30 per 100,000 (see table 4b). Here there is about an eight-fold difference. Reasons why Blacks and Hispanics have higher AIDS rates are due to economic, social, political and cultural grounds. For example, minorities use public health facilities at higher rates because many lack private health insurance (14). But the stigma surrounding public health clinics keeps many people from obtaining HIV testing and treatment (14). In addition, as Dr. Darren E. Wethers mentions, African Americans could be helped with their HIV infection but because they never come forward to be tested and treated, that is the greatest tragedy for the African American community (14).
Last but certainly not the least of importance concerning AIDS, mode of transmission provides further awareness of AIDS. According to tables 5, 5a and 5b, clearly, the mode of transmission with the highest percentage in Dutchess County is intravenous drug users (IDU). The next highest mode of transmission is men having sex with men (MSM). For the cumulative AIDS cases in Dutchess County since 1980, the percentage for IDU was 49% (see table 5). As for MSM, the percentage was 23. That is about a 2:1 ratio for IDU to MSM. For living AIDS cases, the percentage for IDU is 38% and for MSM the percentage is 20%. This is also about a 2:1 ratio for IDU to MSM. However in this data table (see table 5a) hetero contact is 22%, now higher than the MSM percentage. As for living HIV cases in Dutchess County the percentage of IDU no longer has the highest percentage (see table 5b). Hetero contact has the highest percentage with 30%, and then IDU has 25% and finally MSM with 22%. There are probably some men on the down-low among Dutchess County contributing to this change. According to Daniel J. DeNoon, men on the down-low or DL are bisexual men whose sexuality is kept secret (15). This secret can be deadly because the men on the down-low may infect the next women they have sexual contact with, without the women knowing that their partner is infected with AIDS or HIV (15). Perhaps this is the reason why for the living HIV cases in Dutchess County, hetero contact is increasing. Also it is usually more difficult for females to give the disease to males, but it is easier for males to give the disease to females, so it is these men on the down-low that just may be causing the most contribution to the increase of the percentage for hetero contact.
Works Cited Page
1) “HIV/AIDS Over 50”
4 November. 2002. [Online]
11 July. 2007. http://www.dutchessny.gov/CountyGov/Departments/Health/HDnews021104over50.htm
2) Facility Listing
January. 2007. [Online]
11 July. 2007. http://www.docs.state.ny.us/faclist.html
3) 18 June. 2007. [Online]
11 July. 2007. http://www.co.dutchess.ny.us/CountyGoc/Departments/Health/12048_12796.htm
4) Haggerty, Nancy.
25 July. 2004. [Online]
11 July. 2007. http://www.poughkeepsiejournal.com/sportextra/without_limits/haggerty_0725.shtml
5) 30 September. 2006. [Online]
11 July. 2007. http://www.arcs.org/events/031403pr.asp
6) 10july. 2007. [Online]
7) U.S. Census Bureau.10 July. 2007. [Online]
8) 10 July. 2007. [Online]
9) 10 July. 2007. [Online]
10) 11 July. 2007.
11) “Wappingers Falls, New York Crime.” July 28, 2007. [Online]
12) “Worlds AIDS Day.” July 28, 2007. [Online]
13) Thompson, Eulalee. “AIDS: Men at risk AIDS: Men at risk.” July 29, 2007. [Online]
14) Shelton, L. Deborah. August 28, 2003. July 29, 2003. [Online]
“Higher Rates of AIDS and HIV Among Blacks Cause Growing Alarm.”
15) DeNoon, J. Daniel “The Hidden Epidemic: Bi Men Under the Radar.” July 2001. July 29, 2007. [Online]