AIDS remains problem in county, educator says

Jefferson County is among the top 10 counties in the state in the number of AIDS cases reported, a local health care educator said Thursday.

Chinetta Davis, a certified treatment educator in the subject of AIDS who works for the Jefferson Comprehensive Care System, told the West Pine Bluff Rotary Club that there were 259 cases of AIDS reported statewide in 2011, the last year for which statistics are available.

Of that number, 10 were reported in Jefferson County. Pulaski County had 87, the most in the state.

Breaking down the statewide number, Davis said 132 of those with the virus are black, another 82 white, 18 Hispanic and the 27 remaining are of other races or the race is unknown. There were 217 male and 42 females.

According to the Centers for Disease Control, there were 5,351 cases reported nationwide in 2011, and Davis said those numbers are probably not completely accurate, since health officials believe that a significant number of people have the AIDS virus and have not been diagnosed with it.

Davis said she is working with 400 clients who have the virus, including some who live in Little Rock and others who are in the prison system.

“People don’t talk about it much anymore but it is still very much a problem,” Davis said.

She said symptoms of the virus include flu-like illness, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes, chronic fatigue, recurring respiratory infections, unexplained diarrhea and unexplained weight loss.

While the AIDS virus is spread through unprotected sex and infected blood, Davis said it cannot be spread by “shaking hands, in a swimming pool, a social kiss, from a toilet seat, or from a cup, food or an animal.

“Cases are increasing nationwide and in Arkansas,” she said, explaining that while most cases in previous years could be found in cities, the AIDS virus is spreading to rural areas that she said are “hard to get information from because no one wants to talk much about it.”

Davis said Jefferson Comprehensive Care will test people for the AIDS virus at no cost to them.

“We get grants to pay for the testing fee,” she said.