WORLD AIDS DAY Events focus on young people

The Trumbull task force formed in 1983.
WARREN -- People younger than 25 represent half of all new HIV cases.
Dec. 1 marks World AIDS Day, with the U.S. theme "I Care ... Do You? Youth and AIDS in the 21st Century."
The Trumbull County Area AIDS Task Force will observe the day with a dinner and program at 5:30 p.m. in Mollica's Banquet Center in Niles. The Rev. Mark Phillips of First Presbyterian Church in Mineral Ridge will speak.
Tickets cost $20 for those who make reservations by Monday and $25 at the door. Call (330) 856-3902 or (330) 372-7181.
Church service: A Service of Prayer for Healing is set for 7 p.m. Dec. 2 in First Presbyterian Church, North Main Street, Mineral Ridge. This marks the second year for the prayer service.
The Trumbull County Area AIDS Task Force formed in 1983 and runs solely on donations.
"We get no federal money and no grants," said Michael Whitney, task force president.
According to the Ohio Department of Health, more than 94 per 100,000 Ohioans were living with AIDS or HIV as of June.
In Trumbull County, there are 44 people per 100,000; in Mahoning County, 91 people per 100,000, and in Columbiana County, 33 per 100,000.
But Whitney points out that the numbers may not be accurate because people may be tested anonymously or in other counties.
The task force started a testing site in the Red Cross Trumbull Chapter's annex at Mahoning Avenue and Perkins Drive in July.
Free testing: Testing is free and offered from 5 to 7 p.m. the first Tuesday of each month and from 2 to 4 p.m. the third Tuesday each month.
The test is noninvasive and results are confidential, Whitney said, adding it's the only testing site in Trumbull County.
"It takes two weeks to get results, and it's a two-minute test," Whitney said.
Twenty people were tested at the site last month.
The task force includes a speaker's bureau and a food pantry. The organization helps with utility bills as well as groceries.
The task force includes 10 active members, all volunteers, and more are needed, he said.
Call (330) 399-AIDS.
Yearly vigil: The task force conducts an annual candlelight vigil in Courthouse Square, a theater benefit night and a Beau Arts Ball each spring.
This year's theater benefit is "Mrs. Claus has a Gun" at 8 p.m. Dec. 15 at Kent State University-Trumbull.
Whitney estimates the organization helps 160 individuals and families throughout the year.
He got involved with the task force in 1996, becoming president in 1998.
"There's more understanding now than there used to be," Whitney said. "We get more support from community leaders and organizations than in the past."
Wrong notions: But misconceptions persist in some peoples' minds.
The biggest? "That it's a gay disease -- that it can't happen to me," Whitney said.
The rate of infection in the gay community is falling while that of the heterosexual community, especially blacks, is on the rise.
Youths are targeted as this year's World AIDS Day theme because of the numbers of young people with the disease. The American Association for World Health says that 10 million people ages 15 to 24 have HIV/AIDS worldwide and that every minute, five young people are infected with HIV.
"It can't happen to me -- that's the way the younger generation thinks," Whitney said.

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