By SVERRE BAKKE
An estimated 40,000 Americans contract HIV every year, according to the San Francisco-based The NAMES Project Foundation.
As many as 10,000 of those new HIV infections occur in 13- to 21-year-olds, and an average of at least one American under the age of 22 becomes infected with HIV every hour of every day.
It's also estimated by health experts that at least half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. are among people under 25, and that most of the young people are infected sexually.
In latest statewide statistics compiled by the Washington Department of Health, 478 cases of AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) and 73 related deaths were reported in 2000: an average of 8.2 cases per 100,000 people, and 1.25 deaths per 100,000.
Neither Klickitat or Skamania county reported a case of AIDS in 2000. The last reported cases in Klickitat County were in 1996 and 1998 (one each year for an average of 5.2 people per 100,000).
Those are just some of the startling facts and statistics presented during Columbia High School librarian Julie Davis' AIDS education program.
"I don't try to be preachy; I just provide the information that will help students make appropriate decisions," Davis said Monday, World AIDS Day.
During each 20-minute, small-group session, Davis uses audio-visual aids, such as a panel from the AIDS Memorial Quilt, and discussion to educate students about the killer-disease.
"I try to relate (the information) to things kids are doing today, such as getting tatoos and body piercings, and what the risks of such behavior are," Davis said.
Providing the state-mandated AIDS education is something that's important to Davis, as is sharing the message of "how easy it is not to get AIDS."
Davis' personal interest in AIDS stems from the death of a close, AIDS-stricken friend in 1991. Davis said she and her husband used the experience as an opportunity to educate their then 12-year-old daughter about AIDS.
Her classroom approach is an extension of that initial discussion she had with her daughter.
Display of an AIDS Memorial Quilt panel (on loan from the NAMES Project's Portland chapter), the movement's most recognizable symbol, draws student's attention to the subject. They learn what causes HIV infection by listening to information, then discussing what they've seen and heard.
"It's always been my opinion that students learn better when all of their senses are attuned to what they're learning," Davis said. "That's one reason why I bring in the AIDS quilt."
She added that she will continue to display an AIDS quilt on World AIDS Day as long as she can get ahold of one.
For more information about the NAMES Project and the AIDS Memorial Quilt, visit www.aidsquilt.org on the Internet, or call (415) 882-5500.