EDINBURG — A small crowd of concerned students gathered Tuesday at The University of Texas-Pan American to address a big health problem steadily growing in the Rio Grande Valley.
“People need to get tested,” said Getika Sharma, M.D. “People need to understand that anyone could get AIDS and go for years without ever showing any symptoms especially here along the border.”
In observance of World AIDS Day 1998, more than 20 UT Pan American students attended a panel discussion on HIV and AIDS held at The University of Texas-Pan American Ballroom.
Audience members participated in the AIDS/HIV panel discussion, asking panel members AIDS related questions, such as how can AIDS be contracted and how to identify AIDS symptoms.
“We need to be educated,” said Daniel Garcia, World AIDS Day chair for Bacchus & Gamma Peer Educators at UTPA. “AIDS deaths are decreasing, but the number of infections are still increasing.”
A panel member who only identified himself as Roland, explained to the audience his dilemma living with AIDS.
“I was in the Air Force for about 13 years before I was discharged for having AIDS,” Roland said. “The very minute I discovered I had AIDS, it changed my life completely.”
He continued by explaining how he now has to take an assortment of medication consisting of 28 pills every day called the “cocktail.”
“Just two of these pills are for controlling the AIDS virus,” Roland continued. “The other pills are used to control side effects like diarrhea and memory lose.”
Panel members included individuals living with AIDS, physicians specializing in infectious diseases, and caregivers and activists who work with persons who are HIV-positive.
According to Garcia, this year’s theme, “Force For Change: World AIDS Campaign With Youth,” is tied to the fact that worldwide five people between the ages of 10 and 24 are infected with HIV every minute.
The discussion was sponsored by the UTPA Bacchus & Gamma Peer Educators student organization and Comfort House Services Inc.
For more information, contact Garcia at 956/381-2659.