Paul J. Caratti and Wilma I. Buckie, both of Ione, are working to change the course of AIDS for millions of people worldwide. The mother and son team has formed Global AIDS Day in order to increase AIDS awareness and encourage a change in society.
"We are an organization that is faith based, not religious based," Caratti said. "Our hope is to get everyone to work together toward a common goal for a world without AIDS."
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, AIDS, is a collection of symptoms and infections in humans resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus, HIV, according to Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia at en.wikipedia.org. Although treatments for AIDS and HIV exist to slow the progression of the virus, no cure is currently known. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV.
Most researchers believe that HIV originated in sub-Saharan Africa during the 20th century; it is now a pandemic, with an estimated 38.6 million people worldwide infected, according to Wikipedia.
As of January 2006, the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/AIDS and the World Health Organization estimate that AIDS has killed more than 25 million people since it was first recognized on June 5, 1981, making it one of the most catastrophic epidemics in recorded history, according to Wikipedia.
"AIDS is a worldwide pandemic that continues to spread faster than countries are able to recover from economically and socially," Caratti said. "Over 8,500 people die each and every day at a rate of six people per minute. More shockingly, nine people contract HIV, the virus that leads to AIDS, each and every minute.
"That's 15,000 people every day that catch this deadly disease," Caratti continued. "Yet, with all our medical advances and modern technology AIDS continues to thrive and grow faster than any other totally preventable social disease in history."
On Saturday, July 22, Global AIDS Day will be celebrated in Sacramento at the State Capitol and has been structured as a non-religious event where all parts of society can join together to fight the same cause. Objectives for Global AIDS Day include: Preventing 1 million at-risk children from becoming orphans of AIDS, preventing 1 million at-risk people from contracting HIV, bringing greater awareness about how this disease can be prevented, and joining together civic and religions groups into proactive partnership against AIDS, according to the Web site www.globalAIDSday.com.
Events for the day include: A Global AIDS Day 5K walk/run for charity starting at 8 a.m., a health faire, free HIV screening and Hepatitis C testing, youth events and prize giveaway.
"We will see how many people are really concerned about this problem by the number of people that show up on Saturday," Buckie said.
The Global AIDS Day foundation was founded in October 2005 by Caratti and Buckie. It is projected that the number of people infected with AIDS/HIV could double or even triple worldwide in the next five years. His goal is to reduce those numbers though education.
"I never thought I wanted to work with AIDS," Caratti said. "I thought it was a disease that had to do with social sexual experiences that I didn't agree with."
He changed his mind in 2004 when he visited Africa for the first time. "I was issued a challenge that if you have never seen the condition of poverty in Africa first hand, you need to," he said. "It is like when you see the Grand Canyon on TV, you know it is big and beautiful, but when you see it in person it diminishes what you saw on TV, that's how visiting Africa was for me."
Upon returning from Africa, Caratti learned just how prevalent AIDS was in the United States. In California, 1 in 200 people has AIDS or HIV - that is an epidemic, Caratti said.
"We heard about the problem in the newspaper and saw it on TV," Buckie said. "But it wasn't until we became educated ourselves that we wanted to help."
Caratti has created programs that are designed to educate and prevent the spread of AIDS. Let's Wait and Teen Smartz are programs for youth to help them lead lives free of HIV, AIDS and STDs through different practices and methods. A new HIV Education AIDS Recovery Treatment program, HEART, is in the works to help people that are already infected with HIV/AIDS to minimize the spread of the disease.
Caratti does not just work toward prevention; he also works with people that have HIV and AIDS. "People are people," he said. "I help everyone." Caratti and his organization work with churches in Africa to help implement his programs over there.
One thing Caratti recommends to protect yourself and others is to KNOW your status. If you are tested for HIV and discover that you are HIV/AIDS-positive you can spread the deadly HIV virus to others, to your spouse, or friends by having sexual relations of any kind or by sharing IV drug needles. Knowledge is the key to not spreading this deadly disease. If you are tested and discover that you are HIV/AIDS-Negative then you can still catch HIV if, at a later date you come into social/sexual contact with an infected person. Avoiding risky sexual behavior is the best way to stay HIV-free, Caratti said.
Caratti is an AIDS researcher, sociologist and the author of "The Social Terrorist," a book about his experiences with AIDS. He worked closely with Archbishop Desmond Tutu's church in Africa and toured the AIDS pandemic in Africa, where his personal experience of the African crisis permanently influenced his life. Currently he is mapping out the social trends and variable patterns of the AIDS disease as it spreads socially from one country to the next. Caratti is also the founder of the National Council for HIV/AIDS Education and has planned to build the first African Dream Center.
Global AIDS Day is a privately funded nonprofit, nonpartisan educational organization dedicated to fighting HIV, AIDS, STDS and other related social sexual issues in schools and communities worldwide, according to its Web site. For more information about Global AIDS Day, to volunteer or to donate, call Caratti at 274-4955 or visit www.globalAIDSday.com.
A Note from Global AIDS Day
Our special thanks to The Ledger-Dispatch for making Global AIDS Day a front-page community concern.
Reprinted by permission of The Ledger-Dispatch
Editor: Jack Mitchell JMITCHELL@LEDGER-DISPATCH.COM
Post editing and formatting by the Global AIDS Day staff