Local News

Fewer Die with AIDS in NC, More Live with the Disease

Posted November 30, 1998 6:00 a.m. EST

— Around the globe, people are using World AIDS Day to help raise awareness about the deadly disease. In North Carolina, a group that helps people with the virus is releasing a comprehensive look at the epidemic in our state.

The number of people who are dying from AIDS in North Carolina has decreased by 50 percent, according to this year's North Carolina AIDS Index. But the same number of people are contracting the disease every year, which means more people are living with HIV and AIDS, and more people need support.

The North Carolina AIDS Advisory Council is optimistic about the decrease in the number of people dying of AIDS in the state. But they are quick to point out that nearly 12,600 people in North Carolina are living with HIV and AIDS.

These people need resources, including access to expensive medications. One alarming figure in the report is that 75 percent of the new patients in North Carolina are African American, and many of those are women.

The council wants to find a way to reach the African-American community.

"Our programs need to be aimed at saying 'You need to protect your health and know more about your health.' For a lot of African-American women, AIDS is not a priority," said Mental Health Coordinator Kimberly Scott.

Nan Hawkins wants to help the council save lives like her own. "We need to keep on educating," Hawkins says, "showing pictures of people that are living with AIDS and trying to teach other people. And you've got to get young people more involved and more active. They are our key people who can spread the word faster."

Scott says part of the education requires helping women understand why caring for themselves is so important.

The hurdle, Scott says, is "to get women to say, 'I'm important. I value myself. I have to be here for my family, and these are the things I have to do to take care of myself.' " HIV prevention, Scott says, is one of those things.

The council has made a few recommendations of its own. The first is to implement a clean needle exchange program in North Carolina. The proposal has been very controversial.

The council's other recommendation is to get more money for prevention. This year, theGeneral Assemblyallocated $1.7 million to AIDS prevention. Many council members say the number should be doubled.