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HIV and AIDS Hits New Generation

A new health care issue has begun to affect the Baby Boomer Generation by the tens of thousands – HIV and AIDS. And the rapid increase is not in the groups you might think – such as gay men, intravenous drug users, former prisoners or youth.

According to recent Center for Disease Control data, AIDS and HIV is growing in heterosexual people age 50 and older.

Sierra Health Resources education coordinator Sami Rhodes says those statistics don´t seem right to people. “The statistics alone seem to floor them,” Rhodes says.

The Angels Camp-based agency provides education, counseling and support for local residents about HIV and AIDS…one only a few such programs in the nation.

“There is a program in Florida. That´s really who we modeled our program after,” Rhodes says. “It´s my understanding that there is one in Santa Cruz. And other than that, I think we´re the only game around.” The local program is called “S.H.I.P.,” or Senior HIV/AIDS Information Program.

Nationally – 12 out of every 100 new HIV-AIDS infections are in heterosexual adults 50 years of age and over. Compare this with a 9 percent increase among people ages 13 to 49 and you can see this is a major health problem.

“What´s really sad is it´s your kids and your grandparents who are at the highest risk when you look at it,” she says. “It truly is a bit dumbfounding.”

The statistics may seem unbelievable to most who read or hear them for the first time. Rhodes says numbers in rural areas are higher than urban areas. Healthcare officials predict numbers will continue to skyrocket.

The Mother Lode is not exempt from HIV and AIDS. “People actually don´t realize it exists up here; that it is a problem here now,” Rhodes says. “

Part of the problem is lack of awareness of safe sex and HIV/AIDS testing procedures and a reliance on old myths of how a person contracts the virus, Rhodes says.

Who´s at risk? She says it´s older people who tend to have been in relationships for a long time who may have lost a spouse and are now looking to other relationships for the first time in years.

“They have not had to practice safe sex. They haven´t had to ask a lot of questions,” Rhodes says. “It´s just not safe out there anymore. It´s no longer just a matter of the heart. It´s a matter of your life.”

Anyone interested in training to become a peer counselor for the Sierra Health Resources Senior HIV Peer Education Program. For those who may want more information about Senior AIDS/HIV, the phone number for Sierra Health Resources office in Angels Camp is (209) 736-6792. Their e-mail address is: {mail:info@sierrahealthresources.org}info@sierrahealthresources.org{/mail}

Rhodes is this Sunday morning´s guest on Mother Lode Views public affair radio show. That program airs at 8 a.m. on KZSQ 92.7 FM, 9:30 a.m. on AM 1450 KVML, and 10 a.m. on KKBN 93.5 FM.

“It´s no longer just a matter of the heart. It´s a matter of your life.”

The Community Needs Assessment survey is a part of Sierra Health Resources´ effort to provide quality services that are responsive to the needs of people living in our three foothill counties. It will determine how certain government funding will be used to provide services for people with HIV/AIDS in our communities.

We€™d like to know your thoughts about how AIDS has affected our communities, which services are important, and whether new services are needed to help people facing other life threatening diseases, besides AIDS.

The information you provide will also tell us what direction we should take in developing HIV and hepatitis prevention education programs and other health services for people living in Amador, Calaveras and Tuolumne Counties.

Please take a few minutes to respond. Your opinion does matter. Please click on: {url:www.sierrahealthresources.org/survey.html}www.sierrahealthresources.org/survey.html{/url}

If you prefer, you may print out this survey and mail it to: Sierra Health Resources, P.O. Box 159, Angels Camp, CA 95222