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Public forum to discuss HIV/AIDS stats, prevention

Jane Stebbins

WHAT: AIDS/HIV public forum

WHERE: Community Center, Third and Granite streets in Frisco

WHEN: Tuesday, Feb. 26

TIME: 7-8:30 p.m.

FRISCO – Jeff Basinger of the Western Colorado AIDS Project will address HIV and AIDS prevention, local statistics and new research findings at a public forum tonight at the Community Center in Frisco.

Basinger, the resource coordinator at WestCAP, also will speak to high school and middle school health classes this week, said Shanna Koenig, coordinator of Mountain Mentors. The organization is a local mentoring program and matches responsible adults with at-risk youth in the community. Basinger will also provide a training for adults in the volunteer program so they have updated and accurate information to questions youth might pose to them.

The forum is being held to raise HIV and AIDS awareness in the community. HIV – Human Immunodeficiency Virus – is the virus that causes AIDS. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome compromises the body’s immune system, allowing opportunistic viruses and bacteria to take hold. People diagnosed with HIV don’t always get AIDS; AIDS is fatal.

“We feel like it’s a topic that’s not discussed as frequently anymore, and awareness needs to be raised because AIDS cases are still increasing,” Koenig said. “We feel it’s important to educate our children so we share the same knowledge in hopes of preventing the spread within our community.”

Basinger, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1985 and AIDS 14 months ago, said he will discuss what HIV is – and isn’t – and how it differs from AIDS. Additionally, he will address how the immune system is destroyed, how the disease is transmitted and how it progresses and dispel misinformation regarding who is at risk for contracting the disease.

He also plans to discuss how peer pressure and media messages affect behavior.

“Our major goal is to get some good, accurate information into the community,” Basinger said. “Summit County, historically, has had one of the highest positive testing rates of any of the Western Slope counties. It’s the nature of the resort community, international travelers and the party atmosphere. The locals end up paying quite a price.”

According to Basinger, Summit County has reported 26 AIDS cases and 15 HIV cases since the state started keeping track of the disease in the mid-1980s. That doesn’t include people who have tested positive for either disease elsewhere and relocated to the county, or people who don’t know they have it, Basinger said.

“Information helps,” he said. “Information has never killed anybody. But the lack of information is what people risk their lives over.”

For more information about the public forum, contact Koenig at (970) 668-4154.


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