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Archive for July, 2007

High Rate Of HIV, Hep. C In Ontario Prisons

Posted by pozlife on July 31, 2007

 


by The Canadian Press

Posted: July 31, 2007 – 5:00 pm ET 

(Toronto, Ontario) Offenders who are admitted to Ontario remand facilities are 11 times more likely to be infected with HIV and 22 times more likely to be infected with hepatitis C than members of the general population – numbers that point to the need for better education and preventive measures among inmates, a new study suggests.

The study, published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, indicates injection drug use is by far the most important risk factor in the transmission of HIV and hepatitis C among inmates of Ontario’s remand facilities.

“This shows the importance of education, because in some cases, there were people who knew they were infected and still were engaging in behaviors that would transmit the infection,” said Liviana Calzavara, one of the authors of the study.

Calzavara, who is deputy director of the HIV Social, Behavioral and Epidemiological Studies Unit at the University of Toronto’s department of public health sciences, added that one-third of the inmates who tested positive for hepatitis C weren’t aware they were infected.

“This study draws attention to issues around education for individuals in terms of how to avoid it, how to avoid transmitting it to others and treatment that is available that would limit the health effects,” she said.

This is particularly important because inmates tend to spend relatively short periods of time in remand centers – an average of 32 days – before moving on to somewhere else, said Calzavara. The study found that 56,000 adult and young offenders are admitted to remand facilities in Ontario each year, where they await the outcome of legal proceedings, serve sentences under 60 days, or await transfer to provincial or federal jails.

This means there are significant opportunities for transmission of diseases to other populations through high-risk behaviors such as injection drug use or unsafe sex, said Calzavara.

“I think that’s something that society needs to think about, because the typical attitude is, ‘Who cares, they’re incarcerated,’ and people don’t realize that the amount of time spent in prison is actually fairly short,” she said.

The study found that two per cent of inmates tested in Ontario remand facilities were infected with HIV and 17.6 per cent were infected with hepatitis C.

Many educational and preventive measures are already in place in Ontario’s correctional facilities, but the province is always looking to improve its procedures, said Stuart McGetrick, a spokesman for Ontario’s Ministry of Community Safety and Correctional Services.

McGetrick said Ontario’s prisons work closely with local public health units to teach inmates about high-risk behaviors.

“As well as public health officials coming in and talking about the risks of sexually transmitted diseases, the risks of infection from intravenous drug use, we also have programs that help inmates deal with substance abuse and other behaviors that are high risk that might lead them to become infected,” he said.

Correctional Services also offers voluntary HIV and hepatitis C testing for inmates and will work with others who may have come in contact with the inmate if he or she is found to be infected, said McGetrick.

Another study published in the same issue of the medical journal found that 3.4 per cent of inmates at Quebec provincial prisons are infected with HIV and 18.5 per cent are infected with hepatitis C. More than 90 per cent of those infected with either virus reported using injection drugs.

These numbers show without a doubt the necessity of preventive programs in all Canadian correctional facilities, said Joanne Csete, executive director of the Canadian HIV-AIDS Legal Network.

“It’s a really tragic and unnecessary public health concern, not just for the people who are in prisons but for the communities to which they will return,” said Csete. “This is completely avoidable.”

Programs in which inmates are given sterile syringes with which to inject drugs _ similar to Vancouver’s safe injection site _ have “effectively stopped HIV transmission in its tracks” in other countries, said Csete.

But in Canada “there is this idea that people who use drugs should be able to abstain and get clean, and that’s just not realistic,” she said.

“There are some people who just can’t get clean instantly or predictably, and harm reduction measures allow us as a matter of public policy not to throw those people away or say that it doesn’t matter if they get infected with a disease.”

Csete added that a sterile syringe program would pay for itself if it could avert one case of hepatitis C per year because of the health care costs associated with treating the disease.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Giant Condom Floats Over Netherlands

Posted by pozlife on July 30, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: July 28, 2007 – 9:00 am ET 

(Amsterdam, Netherlands)  Concertgoers at a festival in the Dutch city of Lichtenvoorde were treated to an unusual sight Friday: A pink hot air balloon 127 feet high, shaped exactly like a condom, drifting lazily across the sky.

The balloon, with the words “Vrij Veilig” – Dutch for “Safe Sex” – was launched by the public health service in the eastern district of Gelre-Ijssel, near the German border.

The director of the health service, known by its Dutch acronym GGD, said the festival was an ideal opportunity to reach young people. More than 80,000 are expected to attend the three-day Zwarte Cross event – a combination motor-cross race and hard rock concert, with Dutch gothic metal band “Within Temptation” headlining.

“This is a playful way of asking for attention to the problem of sexually transmitted diseases, HIV and AIDS,” said Laurent de Vries.

Nurses on the concert grounds also handed out educational material and free condoms as part of the campaign, he said.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Sterilization Scandal Prompts HIV Concerns At Canadian Hospital

Posted by pozlife on July 27, 2007

 


by The Canadian Press

Posted: July 27, 2007 – 11:00 am ET 

(Edmonton, Alberta) More firings appear to be in the works as the fallout continues from a hospital sterilization scandal that has rocked Alberta’s health-care system and forced 3,000 former patients to be tested for HIV and hepatitis.

Premier Ed Stelmach is hinting that senior officials in charge of the East Central Health Authority will be removed in the wake of a scathing report on poor sterilization across the region.

“Let’s put it this way, there are further changes (coming),” said the premier. “Stay tuned.”

A source close to Stelmach later confirmed that the premier supports an internal call for the firing of two senior executives once a new administrator takes control of the health region’s operations.

The government forced the 12-member hospital board to resign this week after the Quality Health Council released a report on poor equipment sterilization at St. Joseph’s General Hospital in Vegreville.

The 25-bed hospital had to be closed in March for weeks to all but emergency patients after reports that instruments were being recirculated with flecks of blood and dead tissue on them.

Alberta’s opposition parties say this suggests Alberta’s $12-billion-a-year health-care system is poorly managed.

NDP Leader Brian Mason said Stelmach must shoulder some of the blame for the “mess” that is now affecting thousands of Albertans.

“This is a legacy of neglect that has affected the health of Albertans and Premier Stelmach bears significant responsibility,” said Mason.

The auditor general pointed out three years ago that the committee that checks Alberta hospitals is unqualified, yet the premier has done nothing to change this, said Mason.

Stelmach bristled at questions about his leadership on this issue, including his decision to wait two weeks before holding his first public meeting on the issue in Vegreville, which is in his own riding.

“It had nothing to do with me. I’m not the expert,” he said. “So if I walk into the hospital, I can’t tell you if the proper procedures are being following in the surgical suites.”

Stelmach said he’s also asked the health minister “to do a thorough review of sterilizing procedures and sterilization rooms across the province.”

A government official confirmed Thursday that 60 per cent of the 3,000 former patients who were exposed to improperly sterilized equipment have now been tested for HIV, hepatitis and other diseases. No positive test results have been reported.

Stelmach said with the changes announced by the province, which includes new provincial standards for infection control, “this situation is now behind us.”

But Liberal health critic Laurie Blakeman said it’s ironic that the same Tory politicians who provided all of the elements that led to this sterilization crisis now want people to believe they’re in the best position to fix the problem.

“Alberta is fabulously wealthy, we should have the best health-care system of anybody across the country,” said Blakeman. “I’m really disappointed that this government cannot provide that for Albertans.”

The premier also confirmed Thursday that the government is reviewing a master agreement for Alberta’s so-called faith-based hospitals.

The controversial deal more than a decade ago kept boards in place at hospitals with religious ties at a time when other hospital boards were being dismantled as the province created health regions with new boards that would run all health facilities in the region.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Lack Of HIV Services For Gays Highlighted At International AIDS Conference

Posted by pozlife on July 24, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: July 24, 2007 – 9:00 am ET 

(Sydney, Australia) Discrimination and a lack of access to health services have sparked an alarming rise in the rate of new HIV infections among men who have sex with men in developing countries, a leading American AIDS research group said Tuesday.

Studies have found that infection rates are growing among men who have sex with men in Africa, Asia and Latin America, and less than five percent of those men have access to HIV-related health care, according to a statistics released by the American Foundation for AIDS Research, or amfAR.

“It is estimated that one in 20 men who have sex with men have access to appropriate HIV prevention, treatment, care and support services,” Kevin Frost, amFAR’s chief executive officer, told reporters. “This is a massive failure of the HIV/AIDS response globally and I think one that needs to be addressed.”

Statistics show the rate of infection with HIV — the virus that causes AIDS — among men who have sex with men growing exponentially in parts of the developing world.

In Kenya, around 40 percent are estimated to be HIV positive, compared to a 6 percent prevalence in the overall population, according to amFAR. In Senegal nearly 22 percent are thought to be infected, compared to 0.9 percent of the general population.

In Uruguay and Mexico, 21 percent and 15 percent are estimated to have the disease.

“The frightening truth is that, in many parts of the world, we simply do not know how bad the epidemics (are) among” men who have sex with men, Dr. Chris Breyer, director of the Johns Hopkins Fogarty AIDS program, said in a statement. “Transmission … is still not tracked in most countries.”

Under a new initiative launched Tuesday at the Fourth International AIDS Society Conference, amFAR will seek to raise US$300 million (€217 million) over the next three years to provide grants for AIDS education and research among men who have sex with men in developing countries.

The initiative will also aim to raise awareness about the group, who have typically been left out of AIDS prevention strategies because many men are married and do not identify themselves as gay or bisexual.

Male-to-male sex is illegal in 85 countries, meaning that the men who have sex with men often do not receive global AIDS funding because they are effectively marginalized by their own governments, Frost said.

“Empowering (men who have sex with men) and other marginalized groups to protect themselves from HIV is one of the world’s most urgent health priorities,” said Peter Piot, the executive director of the United Nations’ program on AIDS, which is supporting the initiative.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Proposal To Microchip People With HIV/AIDS

Posted by pozlife on July 24, 2007

 


by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 24, 2007 – 11:00 am ET 

(Jakarta, Indonesia) Papua, Indonesia reportedly may become the first area in the world to mandate people with HIV/AIDS have microchips implanted in their bodies so that their behavior can be monitored in a bid to keep them from passing on the virus to others.

The Agence France Presse reports that legislation is being prepared for the state government.

“Some of the infected people experience a change of behavior and can turn more aggressive and would not think twice of infecting others,” Dr. John Manangsang who is helping prepare the bill told the AFP.

Manangsang said the microchip would be used only on people deemed likely to transmit the AIDS virus.

AIDS activists called the move shocking.

“People with HIV/AIDS are not like sharks under observation so that they have to be implanted with microchips to monitor their movements,” said a spokesperson for the Papua chapter of the National AIDS Commission.

“Any form of identification of people with HIV/AIDS violates human rights.”

The state health department says the area has about 3,000 living with HIV/AIDS out of a total population of 2.5 million people.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Bill Clinton: More Than Cheap Meds Needed To Fight AIDS In Africa

Posted by pozlife on July 23, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: July 22, 2007 – 4:00 pm ET 

(Lusaka, Zambia) Former President Bill Clinton said Saturday that cheap anti-AIDS drugs were no magic bullet for ending the epidemic ravaging Africa, and that the continent needs better overall health care.

Affordable medicine “will soon be not much of an issue anywhere,” Clinton said during a one-day visit to the southern African nation of Zambia, which has been ravaged by AIDS.

“How cruel it would be if people continue to die because of inadequate health care facilities in rural areas,” he said while touring a new drug distribution warehouse in Lusaka financed by his charitable foundation.

Since leaving office in 2001, Clinton has negotiated lower prices on AIDS drugs for poor countries in Africa and Asia, helping to extend tens of thousands of lives. The effort, however, is still hampered by overstretched facilities, stigma and an acute lack of skilled staff.

“When we look to the future, we have to ask ourselves how the rest of the system can catch up with the medicine,” Clinton said.

Zambia has put more than 93,000 HIV-positive people on anti-retroviral treatment over the past few years, with help from the United States and other partners. But about 16 percent of the population is HIV-positive, and the country has a serious shortage of health care workers.

Clinton’s first visit to Zambia was the third stop on an African tour that also took him to South Africa and Malawi. He will fly to Tanzania on Sunday.

Zambian officials vied for photos with Clinton. “You were great in office, and you are even greater out of office,” Zambia’s health minister, Brian Chituwo, said in a speech.

Clinton toured the warehouse with Philippe Douste-Blazy, chairman of the board of UNITAID, an organization formed last year by France and 19 other nations that earmarked some airline tax revenues to fight HIV/AIDS in developing countries.

The Clinton Foundation and UNITAID announced a deal in May to lower the cost of back-up drugs to HIV-positive people with resistance to standard treatment.

Clinton also presided over a youth soccer tournament in Lusaka and stressed the importance of HIV testing. “Most of the people in Africa, and in the world, who have the HIV virus … do not know it,” Clinton told a crowd of children and dignitaries.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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Call For Greater Access To HIV/AIDS Care

Posted by pozlife on July 23, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: July 22, 2007 – 4:00 pm ET 

(Sydney, Australia) The world will not be able to celebrate advances in HIV diagnosis and treatment until the United Nations’ goal of universal access to drugs is reached, leading international AIDS researchers said at a conference Sunday.

“We are dealing with a preventable disease and 11,000 people are contracting HIV/AIDS every day. We are dealing with a treatable disease and more than 3 million people are dying every year,” said Pedro Cahn, the president of the International AIDS Society.

“Science has given us the tools to prevent and treat HIV effectively. The fact that we have not yet translated this science into practice … is a shameful failure on the part of the global community.”

More than 5,000 delegates from 133 countries have converged on Sydney, Australia, for the Fourth International AIDS Society Conference on HIV Pathogenesis and Treatment, which runs through Wednesday.

Researchers from across the globe will present their findings on the benefits of circumcision for cutting HIV rates through to the latest developments in anti-retroviral drugs.

Lower prices for HIV drugs have significantly improved access to treatment for people in poor countries, but recent World Health Organization figures show the numbers are still far short of the U.N.’s goal of universal coverage by 2010.

Last year, some 2 million people in developing countries were receiving the anti-retroviral drugs that help treat the HIV infection, a 54 percent increase over 2005. But overall, only 28 percent of the world’s HIV patients are receiving the life-prolonging drugs.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the U.S. National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases, said the world health community could not celebrate the great breakthroughs in the treatment HIV/AIDS since it was first diagnosed 26 years ago until greater steps are made to prevent the disease.

“Of the projected 60 million infections that will occur by 2015, fully half of them are projected to be able to be prevented with already known and proven prevention methods,” Fauci told reporters in Sydney.

“Before we celebrate 26 years since the beginning of extraordinary accomplishments, we’re actually going to be judged as a society in what we do in the next 20-26 years,” he said. “We cannot sustain a successful effort with HIV without prevention.”

Participants at the AIDS conference will be urged to sign a declaration aimed at raising more money for HIV research.

The so-called Sydney Declaration calls on national governments and bilateral, multilateral and private donors to allocate at least 10 percent of all HIV/AIDS-related funding to research.

“We believe that without such funding we will fail to maintain a sustained and effective response to the AIDS pandemic,” the declaration says.

The conference organizers say this will help speed up the implementation of new drugs and technologies to prevent, diagnose and treat the infection.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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A different kind of affair

Posted by pozlife on July 20, 2007

Annual black HIV/AIDS event shifts gears

KATHERINE VOLIN
Friday, July 20, 2007

For eight years, the White Attire Affair, an annual HIV/AIDS event, has focused on getting the message out to local black gays about HIV/AIDS and the need to get tested.
This year, however, the message for the Affair, which organizer Clyde Penn calls a “social marketing event,” will be a little bit different.
“The purpose of the evening is to raise awareness of the need to change one’s own behavior and that’s the only thing that would ultimately help in the defeat of this disease,” says Penn, who is president of the Ummah Endowment Fund, which produces the event.   
The change in message comes after research performed by White Attire Affair supporter, Dante International, showed that 99 percent of the black gay male population was aware of HIV/AIDS. Nonetheless, the research also found that a serious proportion of the men studied were not using protection during sex.
“The population was still not internalizing the threat of HIV and it was not translating into their own safer-sex practices,” Penn says. “Members of the population who were HIV positive or who did not even know their status were still having unprotected sex.”
THE DISCONNECT BETWEEN knowledge and behavior regarding HIV for black gay men has been something Ron Simmons, executive director of local black gay AIDS organization Us Helping Us, has known about for a long time.
“In a nutshell, the problem is not that men don’t know how to save themselves from HIV,” says Simmons, reiterating a sentiment he has made to the Blade several times before. “The problem is that they do not think their lives are worth saving.”
The solution, he says, is to use mental health services to work through the childhood trauma many of the men experienced, “as opposed to just saying, ‘Put on a condom.’”
Us Helping Us was the original beneficiary of the White Attire Affair, which started as a backyard barbeque event for the first several years, but the organization no longer receives funds from the Affair. The funds raised this year, which usually amount to between $5,000 to $10,000, Penn says, do not have a designated beneficiary yet.
“I don’t believe that it really helps us,” Simmons says about the Affair’s work for black men with HIV. “You put on an event that costs close to a quarter million dollars and when the smoke clears, the agency gets $10,000, and the people who are promoting it get the same. It sounds like a business partnership.”
Penn, who declines to reveal his sexual orientation, says the event now functions more as a social affair than as a fundraiser.
“We began this event as a fundraiser, but quickly realized that there was a greater need in the community,” Penn says. “The event became more and more expensive and challenged our ability and continues to challenge our ability [to fundraise]. This is a very, very important intervention, very successful social marketing vehicle.”
This year’s Affair, organized around the theme “007: The Mission,” will include a screening of a film made for the event and performances by hip-hop artist Doug E. Fresh and singer Sheryl Lee Ralph, one of the evening’s two honorary chairs. The other is Joe Solmonese, president of the Human Rights Campaign, which serves as a title sponsor of the event.
Penn says organizers are expecting about 2,000 guests at the Ronald Reagan Building, where the event is held. Many AIDS activists have slammed Reagan’s silence during the early years of the AIDS epidemic, but Penn says the event, which he described as non-political, should be held in the District and few venues can accommodate 2,000 people.

Source: A different kind of affair – Washington Blade

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AIDS Case Deal May Forgive Libyan Debt

Posted by pozlife on July 18, 2007

 


by The Associated Press

Posted: July 16, 2007 – 11:00 am ET 

(Tripoli, Libya)Several eastern European countries would forgive Libyan debt dating back to the Cold War under a proposal to compensate families whose children were allegedly infected with the AIDS virus by five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor, a victims’ advocate said Saturday.
The six foreign medics have been sentenced to death in the case, and Libyan officials have said a settlement could pave the way for their release.
Jailed since 1999, the six deny having infected more than 400 children and say their confessions were extracted under torture. Experts and outside scientific reports have said the children were contaminated as a result of unhygienic conditions at a hospital in the northeastern coastal city of Benghazi. Fifty of the infected children died.
Libya’s Supreme Court upheld the death sentences for the medics in an appeal ruling on Wednesday. But that decision could still be overturned by country’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judiciary Council, which is set to review the case on Monday. The council could approve or reject the convictions or set lighter sentences.
Idriss Lagha, head of the Association for the Families of HIV-Infected Children, told The Associated Press that a settlement was being finalized involving the transfer of money to a fund through the remission of debt to Bulgaria and several other eastern European countries.
Seif al Islam, the son of longtime Libyan leader Moammar Gadhafi, told a French newspaper published on Saturday that $400 million in compensation would be paid to the families.
“The indemnities are financed by international contributions in the form of debt remission,” the newspaper Le Figaro quoted him as saying. “The concerned countries are Bulgaria, Slovakia, Croatia and the Czech Republic.”
An agreement on the case has “not yet been reached” with the European Union, said Seif al Islam, who heads a powerful Libyan association that has worked to resolve the deadlock.
Government officials from Bulgaria and other nations reportedly involved in the deal have all denied they were sending cash to the families.
Le Figaro, without citing sources, reported that each family would get $1 million.
Companies in the four countries are all owed money from Libya largely dating back to the communist era. Bulgaria says Libya owes it $290 million, and the Czech news agency CTK put the Libyan debt to Prague at about $300 million in 2002.
The spokeswoman for Slovakia’s ruling party said Saturday that Prime Minister Robert Fico had discussed with Libyan officials in February the possibility of using some of the country’s debt to compensate the families.
Katarina Klizanova Rysova said negotiations between the two countries were still under way, but any deal would require Libya to eventually repay the debt.
“Slovakia can provide the finances for the Libyan families only on condition that the debt is paid off,” she said.
Rysova said Libyan debt to her country was about $130 million, but the final sum was still being negotiated.
Bulgarian Foreign Minister Ivailo Kalfin reiterated Friday that Bulgaria would not pay compensations because that would imply the medics were guilty. But he also said he was optimistic a settlement was close that could result in the medics being pardoned.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman was not immediately available for comment Saturday.
Czech Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Zuzana Opletalova said the medics’ case “is not over yet and it is premature to speak about any compensation.”
The Czech Finance Ministry would not comment.
The Libyan government is under intense international pressure to free the medics. The case has become a sticking point in the regime’s attempts to rebuild ties with the United States and European countries.
Libyan officials have said the families’ acceptance of a compensation settlement is key to resolving the deadlock and would allow the death sentence to be withdrawn.
Often referred to as “blood money,” compensation for death or suffering is a legal provision in the traditional Islamic code in the Middle East and North Africa.

Source: Gay News From 365Gay.com

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ACLU Acts Against RV Park Banning HIV+ 2 Yr Old From Pool

Posted by pozlife on July 18, 2007

 


by 365Gay.com Newscenter Staff

Posted: July 16, 2007 – 2:00 pm ET 

(Montgomery, Ala.) The American Civil Liberties Union sent a letter to the owner of the Wales West RV park in Silverhill, Ala., today demanding that it stop discriminating against people with HIV. The RV park banned a child with the disease from using the swimming pool, showers and other common areas of the park without his parent’s obtaining a letter from a doctor.
“This kind of ignorance and prejudice is unacceptable at this point in the HIV epidemic,” said Olivia Turner, Executive Director of the ACLU of Alabama. “After more than two decades of studying the disease, we know that you can’t catch HIV by swimming next to someone with the disease or using a public shower.”
According to media reports, Dick and Silvia Glover’s two-year-old foster son Caleb was banned from the pool and other common areas of the RV park by its owner Ken Zadnichek after Silvia mentioned to a desk clerk that the boy had HIV. Although Caleb had been looking forward to taking a ride on the park’s two train rides, the couple had no choice but to leave the park.
“Mr. Zadnichek should be ashamed of himself for picking on a defenseless two year old,” said Christine Sun, a staff attorney with the ACLU’s AIDS Project. “Mr. Zadnichek claims that he was merely trying to protect other campers, but he had nothing to protect other campers against. Ignorance about the disease is no excuse for prejudice.”
The letter sent by the ACLU explains that discrimination against people with HIV is illegal under the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) and demands that the park owner send written assurances to the ACLU that the park will no longer discriminate against people with HIV.
The letter also notes that the ADA prohibits businesses from imposing eligibility requirements, such as requiring a doctor’s note, that screen out people with disabilities. The letter quotes information from the Alabama Department of Public Health making it clear that, “[y]ou do not get HIV from an HIV-infected person by working together, playing sports, shaking hands, hugging, closed-mouth kissing, sharing drinking glasses, eating utensils or towels, using the same wash water or toilet, swimming in the same pool, or coming in contact with their sneezes, coughs, tears or sweat.” (“Basic Facts About HIV and AIDS”)
A copy of the letter sent to Wales West RV park is available here.

©365Gay.com 2007

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