Talk kicks off AIDS Awareness Week

Talk kicks off AIDS Awareness Week

By Matt Collette

According to statistics from the World Health Organization and the Centers for Disease Control, AIDS is the top cause of death for African-American women between the ages of 25 and 34 years old.

Of these women, 75 percent are infected through heterosexual contact.

Brian Havery, a 1998 Northeastern graduate who has worked professionally with people who have HIV and AIDS, put the epidemic in perspective Tuesday night at the African-American Institute as he spoke about the spread, dangers, impact and treatment of the disease.

“Black women are 23 times as likely to be infected as white women and four times as likely as Hispanic women,” she said.

Havery worked as a budget analyst, and later with the government of Barbados in drug procurement and management.

“We want to have really informed results, so we need to have a no-holds-barred environment,” he said. “Only by doing this can we come to some serious conclusions.”

Speaking to a predominantly African-American audience, Havery stressed that “HIV is affecting people of color and it’s killing them.”

Most African-American men with HIV or AIDS are infected through homosexual activity, he said, attributing it to the high proportion of African-American men in the prison system.

“A lot of guys in prison do not willingly engage in sex, they have no choice in it,” Havery said.

When these men are reintroduced into the community, they spread the disease through heterosexual contact, he said.

According to the statistics, 44 percent of men infected with HIV between 2001 and 2004 were African-American, while only 13.4 percent of the national population was African-American.

“HIV is serious because it is affecting the productive population of the world,” Havery said, stressing that the people infected with HIV are usually the ones responsible for keeping an economy strong and for raising future generations.

“AIDS is one disease that could have a serious impact on the world population very easily,” he said, saying 117 million people will die worldwide in the next 24 years if treatment methods do not change.

Improved access to medication could reduce that statistic to 89 million, he said.

Havery spent a large portion of his 90-minute presentation discussing methods to prevent the spread of HIV and dispelling myths on the topic.

“The presentation was great. It was very informative and spelled out a lot of information to college and high school students,” said Roodly Dorleans, president of Haitian Student Unity.

“He put out numbers that show we’re in danger and that AIDS and HIV is going to be here for a long time,” Dorleans said.

Throughout the evening, he stressed that latex condoms prevent the spread of HIV 99.9 percent of the time, but that abstinence was a perfect way to prevent the spread of HIV.

“No longer can you be complacent about AIDS. It is here and it is here to stay,” he said. “Your sexual health is a priority of yours.”

Another key issue he discussed was that people with AIDS no longer look sick, due to antiretroviral medications that lower the presence of the virus, so infected people don’t lose weight or have lesions on their skin as a result.

“Take time to understand that everyone who looks healthy is not necessarily healthy,” Havery said.

In recognition of AIDS Awareness Week, events are scheduled throughout the week. Today, Francisca Benedict from the New England AIDS Education Center will hold “HIV 101” in room 320 of the Curry Student Center at 6:30 p.m. This event, also presented by Haitian Student Unity, will provide information on how to use condoms properly and how to get tested for HIV.

Tomorrow, NUBiLAGA, the Center of Community Service and the Human Service Organization will host a forum and panel discussion in 135 Shillman at 6 p.m. Panelists from Northeastern and the surrounding community will discuss AIDS-related issues.

“The forum Thursday is designed to offer several different perspectives on AIDS,” said Caitlyn Keckeissen, a co-op student in the Center for Community Service, who organized the event. “We’ll have two students who performed their co-ops at the AIDS Action Committee, a representative from the Multicultural AIDS Coalition, a representative from a Catholic Charities HIV/AIDS homeless shelter and a Northeastern professor.”

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