New defense against HIV/AIDS, advocates urge...

Posted at 6:04 PM, Feb 21, 2016
and last updated 2016-02-21 19:06:14-05

At the Butler-Gast YMCA, young people are playing basketball while also learning about human immunodeficiency virus and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.

Otherwise, known as HIV and AIDS.

A coalition of organizations is using Black History Month to highlight the taboo subject in the North Omaha community. 

 In Douglas County, African Americans make up almost 12 percent of the population, but are at least 30 percent of new HIV cases, says Sherri Nared from the county’s health department.

“I think it's a good way to approach young people. Sometimes it's really hard with all the distractions out there – with the internet, TV – whatever,” says Jordan Delmundo, executive director of Nebraska AIDS Project. “So, to do something in conjunction with a basketball tournament is a smart way to engage young people.”

More than a dozen organizations gathered at the north Omaha YMCA location early Sunday afternoon.

This year, organizers decided to hold a basketball tournament instead of a forum as they have done for the past 15 years.

One person who is watching from the sidelines is Margie Dumas.

Twenty years ago, doctors diagnosed her with HIV.

“It's one that comes with so much stigma and so that's why I speak out on it more because of the stigma attached,” Dumas says. “People perish for a lack of knowledge and the Bible tells us that.”

Due to medical advances, Dumas says she is living longer than once was expected for HIV patients.

“I'm able to manage the daily regimen. However, going from 36 pills to four has been a real blessing,” she says.  “So, my attitude reflects my gratitude of being alive.”

Now, she is urging people to get HIV tested.

According to its latest statistics, Douglas County Health officials say they have seen more than 3,000 new cases of chlamydia and over a 1,000 new cases of gonorrhea.

If you test positive for either sexual transmitted infections, then you are three to five times more likely to test positive for HIV, Nared says.

Dumas says her diagnosis went from heart wrenching to a blessing in disguise:

“Sometimes each of us are given a challenge in our lives – not because it will kill us but to make us stronger.