The Spook Who Sat By the Door The Spook Who Sat By the Door

Friday, March 2, 2012

HIV on the rise among Dallas African American women

DALLAS - There's music, texting, studying.

On the outside, 16-year-old Brianna Lamar is just like other teenagers.

On the inside, she is not.

"I have HIV," Brianna said. "I was born with it."

"For me to be as young as I am, and speak about it," she adds, "I realize that it does shock a lot of people."

What may be even more shocking, is Brianna isn't the only teenager in Dallas County infected with the virus that causes AIDS.

"The new numbers we're seeing in the 13-to-18 age group, that number is staggering," said Dallas County Health Department Director Zach Thompson.

Thompson said Dallas County leads the state in the number of new HIV infections.

Twenty-five percent of new HIV cases in the county are in the 13-to-24 age group. About 40 percent of all new cases are African American and female.

"We were just as alarmed in the 80's when we saw the infection rate among white gay males," Thompson said. "We should have the same intensity now as it relates to African American females. And I don't see that intensity."

Brianna says she talks openly with friends about her grueling daily cocktail of HIV medication, and about safe sex. But she says no school adult has ever talked to her about the latter.

"There's no sex ed," Brianna said. "They don't tell you what part should go where, what can happen to this part if this happens - there's none of that.

"There should be," she said emphatically.

Talking about safe sex and HIV is what's most important to Brianna and her grandmother, Freddie Easley.

"Because it's deadly," Easley said. "And because it's out there. And because we need to teach little Johnnie that there's something he can do, so he won't contract this disease."

Easley has raised her granddaughter since she was born with HIV. Brianna's mother and father both died of AIDS.

And while Freddie Easley is proud of her granddaughter, neither of them want anyone else to be like her.

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