We've all heard of AIDS and HIV, but according to a new study, many aren't all that educated about it. It shows thousands don't even know they have the virus.
The study, conducted by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, involved 5,719 gay and bisexual men. 573 of them tested positive for HIV. Of that 573, 440 didn't know they were infected. But the epidemic isn't just national--it's very real in the Coastal Empire.
Susan Alt, the coordinator of HIV services for the Chatham County Health Department, told us, "Everybody thought we're just sort of past this. Well, we're not."
The number of HIV infections is on the rise, and here in Chatham County, it's the younger generation who is hit the hardest. "We're in-taking more younger clients now than we ever have before," said Alt, "which is very scary to me."
And keep in mind, these younger people aren't all drug users, gay or bisexual. According to Alt, heterosexuals often don't consider themselves at risk, but many test positive. And to Alt, that's astounding, because HIV infection is and always has been preventable. "Basically, all it takes is having sex with someone who's infected. And if you're having unprotected sex, then you're at risk for HIV."
If you would like more information on HIV testing or if you have any questions, you can call the Chatham County Health Department at 356-2953. Testing is $20 per person, and if you can't afford to pay, it's free. You can log onto the Centers for Disease Control website at www.cdc.gov.