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Thursday, December 2, 1999
Houston, Texas
Volume 65, Issue 71

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Education is best weapon in AIDS war

By Kimberly D. Jones
Daily Cougar Staff

Although there is no cure for AIDS, a weapon exists to fight the epidemic: education.

In recognition of World Aids Day, Philip Knowlton, Randall Ellis and Kevin Ballew of the Aids Foundation Houston, along with Sean Carter of the Montrose Counseling Center, discussed AIDS awareness and education with UH students Wednesday at the University Center's World Affairs Lounge.


Pin Lim/The Daily Cougar


Students look at sections of the AIDS memorial quilt on display Wednesday in the University Center's World Affairs Lounge.

AIDS is not a disease that affects only gay men. In fact, women seem to be hardest-hit.

"Black females are No. 1 when it comes to being HIV-infected, and females ages 16 to 25 are No. 2," Ellis said.

He said that the best way to avoid infection is abstinence, but those who are sexually active should always use unopened latex condoms made in Japan or the United States.

Carter, a 28-year-old Louisiana State University graduate and development and marketing manager for MCC, found out he was HIV-positive his senior year in college.

He told students they should realize how precious life is.

"I take 18 pills a day," Carter said. "Puking and diarrhea are a normal part of my life because of the side effects of the pills."

But he said having HIV or AIDS is no reason to stop living. After finding out he had the disease, Carter organized the first World Aids Day at LSU.

Students said the information presented at the discussion was valuable, but were concerned that only about 30 students attended.

"I feel that there was a lack of student participation," political science junior Kenya Walker said. "The information was very vital, especially for those students who are sexually active. I feel the information would have aided in their future choices of sexual acts and sexual partners."

But Wednesday's discussion was only part of the AIDS education campaign for Ellis and Knowlton. The two also head Project CAESAR, a program aimed at educating gay and bisexual men in Houston.

The program was conceived by the AFH, but Ellis and Knowlton expanded it and gave it the acronym CAESAR ? which stands for Community Advocates for Education, Safer Sex and Risk Reduction.

In the outreach sessions, at least two AFH staff members make face-to-face contact with men on the street, in bars and in bath houses to distribute safer-sex education kits and discuss HIV risk reduction.

CAESAR also includes workshops on a variety of topics, from commitment and relationships to body image, Knowlton said.

In order to better educate college-aged men, the AFH will begin a new program, CAESAR Boys, next year.

"The new program ... will target teenage and young adult gay and bisexual men," Knowlton said. "We plan to do fun stuff like volleyball and rollerblading."

According to the Houston Department of Health and Human Services, more than 10,000 Houstonians have died of AIDS already, and that number will jump to between 18,000 and 20,000 in the near future.

For more information about HIV and AIDS, as well as testing locations, call (713) 524-AIDS.
 

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