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A look at HIV/AIDS

Aired November 27, 2004 - 08:30   ET


TONY HARRIS, CNN ANCHOR: In Ukraine this morning, the streets of the capitol Kiev are again packed with political protesters. Meantime, the parliament in Ukraine has invalidated the runoff elections. There will be new elections. The supreme court in Ukraine will take a look at this whole case on Monday.
Where is Osama bin Laden? Pakistan says it knows one place where he isn't, the province of Waziristan near the Afghan border. Pakistan is ending a two year terrorist hunt in the province after it says repeated searches failed to turn up any trace of the al Qaeda leader.

An oily mess this morning in the Delaware River. The Coast Guard is helping to clean up an oil spill on the section of the river between Philadelphia and southern New Jersey. A ship started leaking the crude last night. No word on how much oil was spilled.

HOUSE CALL with Dr. Sanjay Gupta is next.

SANJAY GUPTA, HOST: Good morning, and welcome to a special HOUSE CALL. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta.

This morning, I'm going to try and show you why you need to care about HIV and AIDS. Coming up, you'll find out the shocking changes in who's getting infected and hear a candid conversation with former basketball star Magic Johnson.

Plus, we're going to check in with the youngest victims of this epidemic.

What concerns experts is that people believe HIV and AIDS are under control in the United States, but they're not. And the newest places, this deadly disease is spreading just might surprise you.


GUPTA (voice-over): Jane Fowler is 69 and does what many grandmothers like to do, spoil her grandkids. She's also single, divorced now for over 20 years.

JANE FOWLER, HIV POSITIVE: I had my career as a journalist. What I didn't have was the social life that I'd enjoyed as half a couple.

GUPTA: So at age 48, she re-entered the dating scene. Seven years later, she received a disturbing letter from a life insurance company. FOWLER: I got a kind of form letter saying that I could not be insured -- the company would not insure me because my blood test had shown a significant abnormality.

GUPTA: And that's how she found out she had HIV. She was 55- years old.

FOWLER: I was devastated.

GUPTA: AIDS is rarely thought of as a disease affecting middle age heterosexuals, but Fowler's story is becoming increasingly common.

In areas like South Florida, where a lot of single seniors live, the rate of infection is stunning. In Broward County, one in seven over the age of 50 is infected with HIV. And in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach counties, the HIV rate is one in six.

Then there's another amazing part of the equation. Among South Floridian seniors, there's only one man for every seven women.

At age 78 after losing two husbands, Evelyn Gross-Brian never thought she'd feel like a teenager again, but look at her now.

EVELYN GROSS-BRIAN, VOLUNTEER, BROWARD CO.: You get excited. You get a second wind when you get to be our age. There's a new adventure.

GUPTA: Especially when the golden years are spent in self- contained communities, kind of like college dormitories with thousands of people your own age.

JOLENE MULLINS, BROWARD COUNTY HEALTH DEPT.: And with the advent of medications like Viagra, and Cialis and Levitra, the ones that enhance male potency, people's life, as far as their sexual stamina has certainly expanded into 60, 70, 80, 90-years old.

GUPTA: Evelyn is HIV negative, but has seen the devastation caused by the virus. She wants to be safe, but says convincing men of her generation to wear condoms is a tough sell, but an important one as HIV takes an unlikely toll among seniors in the sun.


GUPTA: Fighting HIV and AIDS may be new to seniors, but the gay community has been at the heart of this battle since it first surfaced in the early 1980s. Now a dangerous drug combined with a kind of safe sex fatigue is threatening to undermine all the advances made in this vulnerable population.


GUPTA (voice-over): Twenty-seven year old Tommy Foster is a struggling Broadway actor in New York City. He looks like an all- American boy.

TOMMY FOSTER, HIV POSITIVE: For nearly 20 years, I was Nancy Reagan's poster child for a drug-free America. Just say no and the D.A.R.E. program scared me silly.

GUPTA: But now you might say he's a poster child for a new face of HIV/AIDS. Difficult times and a craving for acceptance led Tommy into a rising subculture, which is tearing up the gay community both medically and morally.

FOSTER: I gave into a craving, a three-day marathon of unprotected crystallized sex. It did leave me infected with HIV with no idea who gave it to me.

GUPTA: Crystal methamphetamine, also know as crystal, meth, crank, ice, or tina is a cheap, highly potent stimulant. And simply put, it messes with serotonin and dopamine in the brain. Those are the cells that stabilize mood. It keeps you up for days, takes away all inhibitions, and it's as addictive, if not more so, than heroine.

FOSTER: Just thinking about doing it causes my body to react as if I had just done it. And it's like all of a sudden your eyes focus in a way that you -- like you've never seen things before. And it immediately it turns everything sexual, everything sexual.

HOWARD GROSSMAN, DR., HIV SPECIALIST: With the advent of drugs for erectile dysfunction, we're seeing the tie-in of crystal and staying up all night and staying up for days in a row tied in with sex.

GUPTA: Which is why crystal is being blamed for contributing to the increased in HIV infections among gay men, which according to the latest CDC reports, is up 17 percent.

PERRY HALKITIS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: 20 years into the epidemic, you'd think this wouldn't be going on anymore.

PETER STALEY, HIV POSITIVE: I think safe sex fatigue set in. And there also was a rise of complacency about what living with HIV actually meant.

FOSTER: There are young guys that aren't scared of it anymore. So they're being a little more lax about it.

STALEY: You can't stop the spread of HIV unless you talk about sex.

GROSSMAN: It has already spread into straight communities and the people who party. And it will spread into colleges and high schools and lower.


GUPTA: Basketball legend Magic Johnson assumed he wasn't at risk. We'll talk with him later in the show.


MAGIC JOHNSON: I was sitting there with the Lakers saying it can't - it couldn't happen to me. I thought I was invincible. (END VIDEO CLIP)

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Magic talks about testing positive and what he's telling kids now about HIV. Plus...


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: I am 12-years old, and I have been HIV positive for as long I can remember, since I was born.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We tell you the story of Caitlin, fighting prejudice and HIV.

First, take today's daily dose quiz. When was AIDS first reported in the U.S.? The answer when we come back.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Checking the daily dose quiz, we asked when was AIDS first reported in the U.S.? In 1981, scientists first named the rare types of illnesses they were seeing as Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.

GUPTA: As the AIDS epidemic has progressed, blacks have been hit especially hard. According to the Centers for Disease Control, more than half of all new HIV infections in the U.S. are African-American. Yet African-Americans only make up 12 percent of our population. Blacks more than any other ethnic group are being disproportionately impacted, and no one is being spared.


UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's hear what your opinion is on that.

GUPTA: Like the young men he now counsels, Adolph St. Arromand knows the pressure of being young, black, and gay.

ADOLPH ST. ARROMAND, HIV POSITIVE: I confessed to having those feelings and being a homosexual male. And all went berserk in my family.

GUPTA: By his 20th birthday, Adolph was diagnosed with AIDS.

ARROMAND: I began to personally in my mind and in my heart prepare for my death.

RASHAD BORGESE, CDC: AIDS rates amongst African-Americans are ten times higher than that of whites.

GUPTA: But black activists are fighting back.

PERMESSA SEELE, THE BALM IN GILEAD: We are in a bad place. And we look at our numbers. GUPTA: Permessa Seele and her organization, the Balm in Gilead, work with 10,000 black churches. Their goal? Start AIDS ministries and finally let go of the stigma that plagues the black community.

SEELE: We are still stuck on this concept that I don't support homosexuality, therefore, I'm not addressing HIV. Who cares whether you support homosexuality or not? The fact is that we have a major crisis in our community.

GUPTA: The project is starting to gain traction. Churches like Bethel A.M.E. in Wilmington, Delaware are starting AIDS ministries for the first time.

SILVESTER BEAMAN, REV., BETHEL AME CHURCH: Ministers need to - we need to stop being judgmental and realize that this is not God's curse upon a segment or a population.

GUPTA: Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute agrees. He says in the end, silence may be doing the most damage of all.

PHILL WILSON, THE BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE: The day will come when all of us are going to be asked the question, what did you do?

GUPTA: HIV can be found in every segment of the black community in numbers that can only be considered staggering. In fact, according to the CDC, nearly three-quarters of all women diagnosed in the U.S. are African-American.

In searching for answers, the spotlight is increasingly being put on a phenomenon called the down low.

GUPTA (voice-over): Forty-six-year-old Vanessa Johnson has already lived twice as long as her doctors told her she would.


GUPTA: In 1990, she was a young law student and the mother of a six-year old son when she was diagnosed with HIV and told she had seven years to live.

JOHNSON: That scared me to death. I didn't want to suffer. And I knew that people suffered from this disease.

GUPTA: She suspects she was infected by her high school sweetheart. Although they never married, they dated for 18 years and had a child. He died of AIDS in 1994. She says now all the signs were there. He did have affairs, and she believes some of them were with men.

JOHNSON: He had a lot of gay friends. He, at the end, would say things to try to let me know - to try to affirm what I already knew, but it was still difficult for him to come right out and say either my preference or my orientation is to have sex with men.

GUPTA: This situation isn't unique. It's called the down low, men who have wives or girlfriends and have sex with other men. Although some are claiming the down low is responsible for much of the increase in HIV infection among black straight women, many experts are saying it just isn't so.

RASHAD BORGESE, CDC: When we look at African-American men who have sex with men, that do not disclose their sexual activities or sexual orientation, we actually find that they are less likely to have high-risk behavior and less likely to be HIV positive.

DAVID MALESRANCHE, DR., EMORY UNIV. SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: We can't really say for sure how much of a contribution this is having to the HIV infection rates among black women.

GUPTA: Experts say the reasons are many, that in the black community, AIDS was originally thought of as a gay white man's disease, and was not even on the radar screen. Add to that poverty, IV drug use, and the fact that blacks don't have the same access to primary healthcare.

Whatever the reason, the explosion of numbers in the black community, especially among straight women is undeniable.


GUPTA: When HOUSE CALL returns, one man's story of living with HIV. Stay tuned.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Coming up. From his marriage...

MAGIC JOHNSON: I told her I would understand if she wanted to leave.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: staying healthy.

JOHNSON: Maybe up early, but I'm to bed early too.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: A candid conversation with Magic Johnson.

But first, today's edition of "The Pulse."


CHRISTIE FEIG, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Are you sitting in a plane or a car during your holiday travel? Well, be sure to take precautions against a silent killer, deep vein thrombosis, also known as DVT, the condition can be caused by sitting down for long periods of time allowing life threatening blood clots to develop in your legs.

To prevent DVT, simply take a walk. Or if you cannot leave your seat, try to move your legs often.

And is there any truth to the myth that turkey makes you sleepy? In fact, there is. Turkey contains an amino acid called tryptophan that can make you feel a little tired. But often your body's hard work to digest to digest the carbohydrates in dinner rolls, mashed potatoes, and other Thanksgiving foods causes more of a sleepy feeling than the turkey. Drinking wine and other alcohol can add to the sleepy feeling as well.

Christie Feig, CNN.



GUPTA: In 1991, Irvin Magic Johnson was at the top of his career as a center for the Los Angeles Lakers and also with a beautiful wife and a baby on the way. Then like thousands of others, he found out he was HIV positive.

MAGIC JOHNSON, HIV POSITIVE: Just like they're sitting there in their audience thinking it can't happen to them, I was sitting there with the Lakers thinking it can't - it couldn't happen to me. I thought I was invincible.

GUPTA: But what is the real story, though? What is the story that you tell them?

JOHNSON: Well, the real story is that I had unprotected sex. That's - I mean, that's easy.

Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers.

The worst moment in all of this was driving from that doctor's office to my house to tell my wife I was HIV positive.

GUPTA: What was it that scared you so much or frustrated you so much about having to tell her?

JOHNSON: I didn't know what she was going to do. So not knowing whether she was going to stay or not. You know, because I told her I would understand if she wanted to leave.

So I think that was the toughest moment. And then when she told me that we're going to beat this together, I just...(sigh.)

The first year was hard for me to deal with. The second year was a little bit easier, but still difficult. It took me five years, five years to get this out of me. It was a difficult moment, difficult time.

Then I came back one other time because I wanted to go out my way. So I finished it. The guys were very receptive. I played in the all-star game. And I had a wonderful game and got the MVP.

So I think guys, oh, OK, he's OK. Because everybody thought I was going to die like a year later, you know. And so they didn't know.

Most people who are healthy -- and I'm healthy -- can't even live my life, trust me. I get up 5:30, 6:00 every morning. I'm in the gym. I run a couple miles, I lift weights. Then I'm at work until 8:00, 9:00 at night. I take my medicine twice a day, whether it's... GUPTA: How many pills?

JOHNSON: Four. I tell you, it's funny because the only time I think about HIV is when I have to take my medicine twice a day.

HIV and AIDS...

GUPTA: Because you look so good, what is your diet like?

JOHNSON: My diet is chicken and fish. Make sure that I get a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit. I'm a big fruit and vegetable man anyway.

I want to be here for a long time, so I'm going to do everything I have to do to be here. And I want to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away to somebody one day. I want to make sure I'm still here to make sure my two young men become men.

Young people want you to be real with them. Just because I'm doing well doesn't mean they're going to do well if they get HIV. Because we have to remember something, a lot of people have died since I announced. So this is not -- this disease is not going anywhere. And it's a tough disease to deal with.

So when I hit them with that, the room goes quiet. And I said the medicine is working in me, but because our bodies are different, it may not work in you.


GUPTA: Magic is one of the lucky ones. The drugs are working and he's living a good life. We got another story of hope and survival coming up on HOUSE CALL.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: The hardest thing is accepting sometimes what people think of you and how they look at you.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Born with HIV and fighting it with a smile. Caitlin's story when HOUSE CALL returns.

First, a new take on an old exercise.


HOLLY FIRFIR, CNN CORRESPONDENT (voice-over): Do you know how many steps you've taken today? Well, if you're like most moderately active Americans, that's somewhere between 5,000 and 7,000 steps, according to a study published in the January issue of "Sports Medicine." But by just adding 2,000 more steps, the equivalent of a mile a day to your regular activities, along with a sensible diet, researchers say you may never gain another pound.

Walking is cheap cardiovascular exercise that you can do any time, inside or out. So how much is enough? Well, experts say walk at least 6,000 steps for health benefits and 10,000 steps for weight management.

On average, 10 minutes of walking equals 1200 steps. And finding ways to add in those extra steps is easier than you may think. Park the car further from your destination. Take the stairs rather than the elevator. Add a stroll to your breaks and lunches. Catch up with loved ones with an evening walk around the neighborhood. And keep track with a pedometer that counts your steps so you can set goals and monitor your progress.

Holly Firfir, CNN, Atlanta.



GUPTA: Welcome back to HOUSE CALL. Children don't usually come to mind when thinking about HIV, but thousands are living with this deadly disease. And we met some of these courageous kids at a camp where HIV and AIDS are nothing to be afraid of.


KAITLYN KLEPZIG: Do I look scary to you? If I don't, would I if I told you that I have HIV? Hi, my name is Kaitlyn. I am 12 years old and HIV positive.

GUPTA: Kaitlyn Klepzig was born HIV positive. She was adopted when she was just two days old.

CLEO KLEPZIG, KAITLYN'S MOTHER: But there were no other infected children in the state of Montana at that time.

CASEY KLEPZIG, KAITLYN'S FATHER: We were bringing in the biggest scare of the whole time. And that was a child with AIDS.

GUPTA: But for a new generation, a generation that has never known a world without AIDS, things are starting to change.

K. KLEPZIG: I am 12 years old, and I have been HIV positive for as long as I can remember, since I was born. And it's just been a great part of my life.

GUPTA: Part of the reason it's been so great is because of Camp Heartland, a safe haven where kids can hike, sing songs, perform skits and talk about AIDS. All the campers have been touched by HIV.

K. KLEPZIG: Nobody's mean to each other here. And you have nothing to be scared of. It's just the hardest thing is accepting sometimes what people think of you and how they look at you.

GUPTA: That's why campers here practice telling their stories, something they'll do for real at schools around the country.

K. KLEPZIG: I went to see my birth mom a couple of months before she died, but sadly for me, I don't remember anything but the plane ride. NEIL WILLENSON, CAMP HEARTLAND FOUNDER: This is the one place where as a human being, they can share that secret and tell someone else I have AIDS. And their friend can put their arm around them and say, me too. The words "me, too" are very powerful.


GUPTA: Want to hear more about Kaitlyn and Camp Heartland? Well, tune in Sunday night to my primetime special called "RU Positive?"

From America's schools and churches, to Hollywood, AIDS is re- emerging in communities and people you'd never expect. You'll hear their stories, plus find out what's driving some Hollywood stars to get involved. That's Sunday night at 10:00 p.m.

Thanks for watching. I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Stay tuned now for more news in CNN.


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