Roanoke Times Features Series on the ‘Changing Face of AIDS’ in Southwest Virginia
The Roanoke Times last week in a three-part series examined the course the HIV/AIDS epidemic has taken in southwestern Virginia. Twenty years after the first reported case of AIDS, the disease has a "dramatically different face" in the region. Half of all new cases of AIDS and HIV reported to the Roanoke health department are among gay men, a "far cry" from the beginning of the epidemic, when such numbers were higher. Currently, 35% of new cases are among women and 44% are among blacks. According to health department statistics, the region has 1,848 cases of HIV/AIDS, but the actual number could be up to four times higher, as many people forego testing for fear of stigmatization and discrimination. The Times notes that finding people who were willing to discuss their condition and how it has affected their lives was difficult, but several individuals are profiled in the series (Macy, Roanoke Times, 10/7). Highlights from each article appear below:
- " Living With the Shadow": This article profiles Alvin Blevins and Donna Firebaugh, two long-term HIV survivors. Both individuals contracted HIV from men who "concealed their bisexuality," a phenomenon that "may explain why area health officials are seeing an increase in the number of people who got HIV from heterosexual sex," the Times reports (Macy, Roanoke Times, 10/7).
- "The Parallel Epidemic": This article examines the story of "Kaye," a 42-year-old single mother of three who believes she contracted HIV from a long-term boyfriend who was a former intravenous drug user. Kaye's story represents the HIV/AIDS epidemic in the black community, the Times reports. Although HIV/AIDS cases among gay men have "plateaued," the number of cases among blacks is rising. Although blacks make up only 13% of the U.S. population, they account for 47% of all HIV/AIDS cases in the nation and 51% in Roanoke, where the HIV incidence is three times the state average (Macy, Roanoke Times, 10/9).
- " Taking it to the Streets": This article profiles Pam Meador, a case manager for the AIDS Council of Western Virginia, who counsels people about HIV/AIDS and safe sex and hands out condoms at public housing developments and gay bars. Meador works primarily with blacks and women, the two groups most affected by HIV in the region, and gives prevention lectures to after-school groups that focus on abstinence but also include information on safe sex (Macy, Roanoke Times, 10/11).