"Drugs, sex fueling the AIDS fire," Gaston Gazette (04/10/1991)

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"Drugs, sex fueling the AIDS fire," Gaston Gazette (04/10/1991)


Teresa Dixon Murray




Describes contemporary attitudes towards spread of AIDS in Gaston County in 1991.


Gastonia, NC


Gaston Gazette



House of Mercy Archive: Binder 1 (1990-1999)


Drugs, sex fueling the AIDS fire

GASTONIA – Growing drug use and swapping sex for drugs are leading causes of Gaston's alarming increase in AIDS cases, health officials say.

And now, for the first time, health officials plan to do a profile of the typical AIDS patient. They say that will help them develop prevention programs for those most at risk.

"It'll allow us to get a more dimensional picture of how AIDS is affecting our community, the kinds of people," said Allied Health Director Bill Gross. He emphasized that no names will be used.

Fifty-three new cases of the AIDS-causing virus, called HIV, were discovered last year. That's twice the number from the year before. To date, Gaston has 119 people with HIV; 30 have developed into AIDS.

"Drug use is where a lot of cases are coming from now," said Bob Broyden, a Gaston County Health Department educator.

"We see a lot of people who use the drugs and share the needles," said. Betty Worthy, a health department supervisor who counsels AIDS patients. The goal is teaching drug users not to lend needles, she said.

Besides sharing needles, Broyden said, "The trend would say that what or we're seeing is exchanging sex for drugs."

Unprotected sexual relations with an infected person and injecting drugs with a contaminated needle are the two primary ways AIDS is transmitted.

"Evidently, the need for drugs 'overrides the need for safety," Broyden said.

"Whether they're exchanging drugs as a ploy for sexual favors, they haven't told me that," Mrs. Worthy said. “It's probably going on here some, but I can't say for sure."

What worries health officials is that an estimated 1,400 Gaston residents could have the HIV virus based on national health estimates. But only 8 percent know it.

“They're missing valuable treatment and they don't practice safe behavior," Broyden said.

The virus can lie dormant for five to 10 years without symptoms. But it still can be transmitted.

For that reason, anyone who thinks he or she could have the virus should get a blood sample. "Really," Broyden said, "testing is the key."

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