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Richard Doty

Michael Reece

Last modified: Thursday, November 29, 2001

AIDS education needs more emphasis on those with the disease

There is much emphasis on AIDS prevention education in this country, but not enough concern with helping those who have the disease to reduce the spread of the deadly virus, according to an Indiana University community health expert.

"With World AIDS Day upcoming on Saturday (Dec. 1), it's important to address some health concerns related to this disease," said Michael Reece, an assistant professor in the IU Department of Applied Health Science whose research emphasizes the community health response to AIDS and HIV. "Developing interventions that specifically focus on reducing risk behaviors among those already infected is essential to curbing the HIV/AIDS epidemic," he said.

"The physiological and psychological impact of the virus are well documented, but the collective impact of medical, psychological and social challenges associated with HIV and AIDS continues to place a great strain on community health resources," Reece said, noting that researchers and practitioners are faced with complex issues requiring an integrated and comprehensive response. He said there is a need for more coordination between our nation's systems of HIV prevention and care.

Reece has been studying community health issues involved in AIDS and HIV for 11 years. He has experience as a college HIV educator and director of a state AIDS prevention program.

"Because of the prevalent belief that the majority of AIDS cases are still in the gay community, there is a stigma attached to addressing the disease from a community health perspective," he explained. "Because intimate details of sexual behavior must be discussed and acknowledged when developing HIV prevention activities, we still struggle with dealing with issues considered by many to be taboo. It is important to more openly explore issues related to sex, such as sexually compulsive behaviors and the re-emergence of sex clubs."

Reece said the challenge is to explore these "dark side" topics without further victimizing the participants due to our society's discomfort with talking about sex. "Stigma also plays a role in people accessing care, especially in rural communities. Dealing with these issues needs to be community-driven, not determined by government or the academic community," he said.

Reece said there are some remarkable drugs to help people with AIDS, but they don't work for everyone, and access can be an issue. The cost makes them prohibitive without health insurance, which isn't available for many inner-city residents. He said there have been great improvements in AIDS research in the last five years, but he believes a cure for AIDS may be some time away, if it happens at all. "For now, we need to continue to develop public health programs that plan for AIDS as a chronic and manageable disease," he said.

For more details on community health issues and AIDS, contact Reece at 812-855-0068 or