Woman’s AIDS ‘Vendetta’ Stirring Interest in AIDS Prevention
DALLAS (AP) _ Health workers are scrambling to keep up with requests for blood tests and information from people fearful of an AIDS-infected woman who has said she is intentionally spreading the deadly disease.
The woman identified herself only as ″C.J.″ of Dallas in a letter published in September’s Ebony magazine. She said she was taking revenge on the man who infected her through a sexual encounter.
Since the letter was read over the air by local radio personality Willis Johnson, health workers said they have seen greater public interest in preventing the disease, especially in minority communities.
C.J. has made the threat of acquiring the fatal disease seem ″much more real″ to several Dallas residents, said Alban Alfaro, education coordinator for the Dallas County Health Department.
″The ones who have been following C.J. closely, we noticed when we go out to conduct outreach, many times they would bring up C.J. and say, ’When are you guys going to catch C.J.?‴
Dallas County Health Department spokesman Michael Smerick says clinic staff members have informed him that phone calls have dramatically increased since the article appeared. Employees have had to abandon paperwork to answer phones.
″The thing with C.J. is this person is very vocal,″ Smerick said. ″We know this person is out there, but how many silent C.J.‘s are out there and how many silent C.J.’s are out there that don’t know they have been infected with the disease?″
Dallas County reported 3,182 AIDS cases through July 31. The federal Centers for Disease Control in Atlanta has recorded a cumulative total of 191,601 cases in the United States, with 122,905 deaths.
C.J.’s notoriety has prompted radio stations to ask health department officials to be guests on talk shows. Church groups, especially traditionally black churches, and youth groups also have expressed increased interest in AIDS seminars, Smerick said.
″Education to me is the way (to fight AIDS) and we’ve hit stone wall after stone wall 10 years after the fact,″ Smerick said. ″We still have schools that won’t let us come in and talk about condoms. We still have groups that won’t let us come in and talk about cleaning your needles.″
AIDS is spread most often through sexual contact; contaminated needles or syringes shared by drug abusers; infected blood or blood products; and from pregnant women to their offspring.
The Dallas Police Department is not searching for the woman, although at least one officer is keeping a file on her. A clerk in the Crimes Against Persons unit said the department has received numerous calls from people who say they know who C.J. is. But everyone has identified a different person, the clerk said.
Police spokeswoman Eva Romero said the department is not looking for C.J. because no one has stepped forward saying they were infected by her.