Syracuse responds to HIV spike

Onondaga County Health Commissioner, Dr. Cynthia Morrow, together with Rev. Chauncey Brown, chairman of the Black Leadership Commission on AIDS (BLCA) and H. Bernard Alex of FACES a department in the Southwest Community Center (SCC) held a press conference today at SCC. They are collectively concerned about a recent spike in reported HIV in minorities under 25 of age in Syracuse.

Morrow said typically there would be seven reported cases in this category in a year. Nine cases have been reported in the first quarter of 2010.

"This really has us shocked," Brown said.

The nine individuals were not necessarily connected she said, so there are probably more out there.

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. AIDS is the final stage of HIV, when your immune system no longer works. It is a sickness that can kill you. There are treatments that can help people with HIV live longer, but there is no cure.

And, one can appear symptom free during the initial stages, so it is important to get tested if you have unprotected sex.

She said the sooner you know you have the virus, the better, as it makes it much easier to treat.

"It's scary to find out you have AIDS," Morrow said, "(But) It's even scarier to die from AIDS."

Plan of action

Education is the key to HIV prevention. Brown said leaders from the black churches in the city of Syracuse are planning a clergy summit May 8 and 9 (time and place TBA) to come up with a unified strategy. They are seeking a plan on how to step up the education, and also how to council church members about HIV.

"All of us of the faith community will respond," Brown said.

"It's 100 percent preventable," Morrow said, "(versus) a life sentence of medication and the risk of transmission."

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