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DELEGATE: V.I. MUST END 'SILENCE' ON AIDS

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The people of the Virgin Islands need to "end the silence" surrounding AIDS, Delegate Donna Christian-Christensen said in a message marking Wednesday, Dec. 1, as World AIDS Day.
More than 300 persons died of AIDS in the territory between 1981 and 1997, the most recent year for which statistics are available, she said in the message issued on Tuesday, Nov. 30.
"Of course, these are only the reported cases," she noted, and the figure "does not reflect those infected in the territory who seek treatment elsewhere" or those who are reported to have died of other causes."
In the territory, "too many of us still believe that it is a gay disease or a drug user's disease," Christensen, a physician, said. "But statistics show that young heterosexual men and women between the ages of 17 and 45 who are black or Hispanic are most likely to be the victims."
She said the territory's AIDS caseload "mirrors the national statistics for adults, which indicates that many in the territory who are HIV positive probably contracted the disease as adolescents." She warned against a "false sense of security that it happens to others and not to us."
This year's World AIDS Day theme is "AIDS – End the Silence. Listen, Learn, Live!" It was chosen to encourage people to open new lines of communication concerning the disease, Christensen said.
Given the reality of HIV/AIDS, she said, "it it important to educate ourselves and our children on how to protect themselves. It is also important to educate ourselves on how to help those who have been infected to live meaningful lives."
The delegate said that as chair of the Congressional Black Caucus Health Braintrust she has helped to secure federal funding targeted to "address the increasing epidemics in communities of color," including allocations for the Virgin Islands.

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