November 6, 2002
"Look at this face, this old, wrinkly, jowled face," said 67-year-old, Jane Fowler, smiling broadly. "This is another face of HIV." Fowler's story belies the common impression most people have about HIV/AIDS. She was not an IV drug user and had never had a blood transfusion, but after her divorce in the early 1980s, she re-entered the dating scene. In 1991, she learned she had HIV.
"The aging public must be taught how HIV occurs, that prevention can come from condoms... or as we used to call them, rubbers," Fowler said. "Even if you are past menopause, you have to talk about it before passion affects good judgment. And if a partner refuses to use protection, find a new partner."
Fowler shared her experience with dozens of health professionals, social workers, and men and women either infected or affected by HIV who gathered at the Golden Nugget for the HIV Impact Conference sponsored by Sista to Sista.
Sista to Sista is a grassroots organization that strives to educate women of color about HIV/AIDS prevention, and to ensure that those infected with the virus have access to the health care they need. The focus of the conference was to enlighten the community about the populations at risk of contracting the virus that do not fit the common profile, including heterosexuals, women and older adults.
According to the CDC, HIV is increasingly affecting women. About 50 percent, or 18.5 million of the 37.1 million adults living with HIV/AIDS worldwide, are women. Between 1991 and 1996, AIDS cases in the over-50 population rose more than twice as fast as those among young adults. Reported HIV infections in Nevada jumped from 212 new cases in 1999 to 304 new cases in 2000, according to Nevada State Health Division.
"The main issue I want to press is that this state needs to help us with this," said Paulette Brooks, 37, who has had HIV since 1992. "People with HIV need help with health coverage, housing, and there's not enough help for mothers with HIV."