Michigan has had it tough recently — a declining economy as well as the resigning of Kwame Kilpatrick as Mayor of Detroit. But the state’s biggest trial is yet to come, as the rate of the AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) virus doubles among their young people in metro Detroit, according to the Free Press on Wednesday.
“The number of youth infections is disappointing but unfortunately it’s not surprising” said David Coulter, executive producer of the Michigan Aids Fund that provides HIV/AIDS education and programs that push discussions about teen sexuality.
“To reach someone 13 or 14”, said Coulter, “you have to have uncomfortable but critical conservations in schools, at the dinner table, and in recreation centers to help keep kids safe. And that’s not happening as often as it should.”
According to data from Michigan Department of Community Health, teens and young adults between the ages 13-24 living with HIV/AIDS has almost increase from 5.7 to 9.7 cases per 100,000 residents in the state from 2002-2006. About 18,000 people are now living with HIV/AIDS in the state — including almost 12,000 in metro Detroit.
The Ferndale-based Midwest Aids Prevention Project does nightclub outreach to bring awareness about HIV/AIDS. Last night, three of their health workers were the Off Broadway East club — passing out condoms and trying to prevent others from having unprotected sex at the corner of a table.
“They make me feel comfortable talking about stuff because they are meeting people where they are” said 19-year-old Tyrone Snites. “If I decide to do something sexual when I leave the club, I know condoms are readily available. It’s a great resource that has probably saved my life.”
Wayne Stallsworth, a 23-year-old HIV-prevention specialist, was one of the trio that spoke with the patrons at the club last night.
“As people come over and take items”, he states, “We strike up conservations that encourage them to practice safe sex and get tested for HIV. When people know better they do better. We’re here to try to help change behaviors.”
However, according to Coulter, getting people to be aware of HIV/AIDS is now 50/50.
“The good news-bad news”, he continues, “is that drugs today keep people alive longer so less people are dying of AIDS in this country. So kids aren’t seeing celebrities like Magic Johnson battling with the disease. But back when Rock Hudson or Freddie Mercury of Queen died from AIDS it heightened the awareness. Many people think the crisis is over and infections continue to rise so education is crucial.”