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No end in sight for spread of HIV


December 28, 1998
Web posted at: 5:56 p.m. EDT (2156 GMT)

From Boston Bureau Chief Bill Delaney

BOSTON (CNN) -- Walking to work in downtown Boston, 25-year old Raphael Sainz doesn't much look like he's sick.

He is though -- very sick. Sainz contracted HIV, the virus that causes AIDS, the night of his 18th birthday. He was diagnosed several months later and the news devastated him.

"I tried to commit suicide. I tried to kill myself," he says. "I just felt, you know, well, if this is gonna happen, let's just do it now and get it over with."

Experts on AIDS say too many young people are vulnerable to despair. And the message about the danger of AIDS, they say, still isn't getting through to people under 25, who make up half of all new victims of the disease.

Studies indicate incidence of HIV is rising among teenagers, especially minority teenagers, mostly from a combination of ignorance, an it-can't-happen-to-me attitude, and among some, fatalism.

Many young gay men like Raphael Sainz are convinced they can't do anything about AIDS because of who they are.

"I think that a lot of young people sometimes look at HIV in that way," Sainz said. "If it's going to happen eventually, it might as well happen to me now.".

Another delusion is an impression among some that the disease just isn't as dangerous as it used to be. Carriers like Sainz, surviving on regimens of expensive new drugs, perpetuate that false notion.

But the final outcome, experts say, hasn't changed. For the young who continue risking and contracting HIV, it's still a disease without a cure that can still kill when life has barely begun.

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