Speaker: AIDS can hit anyone
Sunday, February 12, 2006 6:43:00 PM
by Charlotte Russell Johnson
|Albany State University commemoration of World AIDS Day.
Albany Harold December 1, 2005
ALBANY — Sometimes, it takes tears and heart-wrenching stories to get a message across.
The Associated Press
So Charlotte Johnson, an AIDS awareness advocate and author, told about 200 students at Albany State University Thursday morning about how she lost one of her best friends to AIDS in 1989.
"I just think you have to make it real," Johnson said. "You have to put a face to it."
Johnson, of Columbus, said her stories, although painful to relive, show people the devastation the incurable disease can have on people.
"I remember a time when you looked at the obituaries and most of the people were old. Not any more," she told the students.
One of the stories that drew gasps and a few tears from the audience was when Johnson was at a testing clinic in Atlanta a few years ago.
Among the teenagers and young adults being tested was an old woman who looked to be about 85 years old, Johnson said.
"She was a diabetic. Her grandson was a needle user. He used her needles, and she got it," Johnson said.
Johnson said people need to understand the disease and not shun or ostracize its victims.
"Would you judge them, look at them differently, turn your back on them," if they were your friends, she asked the students. "Take it seriously, before it knocks on your door."
Brian Rakestraw, an 18-year-old freshman at ASU, said AIDS is sometimes discussed among students, but not terribly often.
"It should be talked about more," Rakestraw said. "People should know that this is out there; it's killing everyone. It doesn't discriminate against anyone."