Americans less wary of AIDS, even as rates rise

July 8, 2011

This year marks the 30th anniversary of the AIDS epidemic and it's obvious that things have come a long way since the condition broke onto the national scene. Safer sex education has made people more aware of the risks of getting frisky and that they should use a condom whenever having sex to avoid getting STDs.

However, Vallerie Wagner, the director of the health and wellness programs for the Education Division at AIDS Project Los Angeles, notes that the rates of AIDS infection are actually rising and education still has a long way to go.

"We actually encourage people to engage in safer sex practices, meaning that they should use condoms every time they have sex, that they should not engage in sexual activity while under the influence of alcohol or drugs," she told the radio station. "And one thing that we know about HIV in the country -- that the rates are going up, particularly in communities of color."

In 2006, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) estimated that there were 56,000 new infections.

Wagner believes that one of the reasons for this increased risk is the stigma that still lies at the heart of the issue. If people aren't made aware of the risks of sex by other family members, then they are more likely to engage in risky behavior. Not only that, the media's attention has turned in other directions since the AIDS fears of the 80s, leaving the issue neglected.

The CDC suggests that knowing how to use a condom can significantly reduce the risk of sexually transmitted infections, including the risk for AIDS. The organization estimates that around 18,000 Americans die each year from the illness.