Dec. 2, 2003 – One of the things some Virgin Islanders did in observance of World AIDS Day on Monday was hear from a person diagnosed as HIV-positive two years ago.
Jonathan Pate, a 21-year-old AIDS activist from Orlando, Florida, spoke to students at Central and Education Complex High Schools, focusing on prevention of the spread of the virus. And he didn't just talk; he listened.
His assessment afterward was that the V.I. teen-agers were "very uneducated" about HIV/AIDS. "The students don't talk about it enough," he said. On the mainland, he said, "knowledge of HIV/AIDS is required for many students to graduate from high school, and in St. Croix more outreach for young people is needed."
Pate also expressed concern about the lack of records on youth infected with HIV in the territory. "In Orlando, the statistical data on the youth population aged 14 to 24 is very up-to-date," he said. "In the Virgin Islands, no records at all are kept of people in that age group."
As for his own situation, he told the students he was fortunate when he was diagnosed as HIV-positive at the age of 19, because he got treatment fast and now his disease is undetectable. "People are living longer and healthier lives with proper treatment," he said.
Jo Shim, coordinator of the Health Department's HIV Outreach Program, said she was very impressed with Pate's presentation at the high schools. "He put a face on the disease," she said. "He stressed the importance of testing, and he emphasized to the youth how important it is to protect themselves."
The AIDS Coalition of St. Thomas/St. John developed a week of activities related to World AIDS Day that continues through Saturday. One item on the agenda for Thursday is discussion of HIV/AIDS in the district's schools at all levels.
To see what else remains on the week's schedule, click here.
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