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St. Louis teens get the message on World AIDS Day

By Kevin Lavery, KWMU

St. Louis, MO – The cast of Chicago's Healthworks Theatre Group performed a short play to teach about 200 St. Louis middle school students about HIV and personal behavior.

Youths between 13 and 18 make up nearly eight percent of the region's HIV cases -- and the St. Louis Health Department's Stacie Davis says that figure is rising:

"And they don't realize that they're infected until they're like 25,30, 35 or 40," Davis said.

Meanwhile, a national report released this week finds that housing is the key element that drives the successful treatment of HIV-positive patients.

The findings are the result of a summit held in June by the National AIDS Housing Coalition.

Dr. Lynne Cooper is president of Doorways, an interfaith AIDS residence program in St. Louis. She says it's hard to systematically treat symptoms of HIV-related illness when patients live in shelters or on the street:

"For a person with HIV, being homeless can be fatal," Cooper said. "They have a very difficult medical regimen to follow. And so you cannot begin to manage that regimen unless you have a refrigerator and a bed and a house you know, all the trappings that we call home."

The most recent available data shows that at the end of 2004, about 7,000 people in the city of St. Louis and six surrounding Missouri counties had been diagnosed with AIDS.


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