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Using their powers for good

POSTED November 30, 2010 10:18 p.m.

I am usually not a fan of celebrity news. In fact, I cringe whenever someone in the office asks “Did you hear what Angelina Jolie and Brad Pitt (or any other famous people) are doing?”

But I must admit that fame can be a mighty power for good when celebrities band together for a cause. So when the USA Today reported that Alicia Keys, Lady Gaga, Kim Kardashian, Ryan Seacrest, Justin Timberlake, P. Diddy, Usher, Jennifer Hudson, Khloe Kardashian, Jay Sean, Swizz Beatz, Serena Williams, The Buried Life, Elijah Wood, Janelle Monae, Kimberly Cole, David LaChapelle, Daphne Guinness and Bronson Pelletier will "end their digital lives" by signing off from all social networking platforms including Twitter and Facebook today in solidarity for those in Africa and India affected by HIV/AIDS, I was impressed.

The participating celebrities said they will not come back online until $1 million has been raised for Keep a Child Alive, which was co-founded by Keys and Leigh Blake.

Today is World Aids Day and I support any and all efforts to find a cure and bring awareness to this devastating disease. In 1988, a year after the first case of HIV infection was diagnosed in America, I had a personal experience with the effects this disease can have on an entire community.

The first time I heard about HIV and AIDS was at a mandatory meeting held at my high school. The principal came to the microphone and said that we would soon be welcoming a new student — Ryan White.

Ryan was a hemophiliac who became infected with HIV from a contaminated blood treatment. When parents and teachers at his school in Kokomo, Ind. found out he had AIDS, they rallied against him and he was expelled. After a bullet was fired through their window, the White family moved out of Kokomo and moved to my hometown of Cicero, Ind.

At the school meeting, my principal educated us about HIV and AIDS. We were told that it is transmitted through blood and bodily fluids and you could not catch it from sharing a water fountain, toilet seat or desk with a person who has HIV.

It is amazing what a little education can do. I, nor any of my fellow students, had a problem with Ryan going to school with us. There were no angry parent rallies or gunshots. There were, however, a lot of reporters and television cameras on campus for awhile. But, as always happens, they eventually found a better story to follow and school got back to normal.

Except for the occasional celebrity visit, Ryan was like any other student at Hamilton Heights High (go Huskies!). Unfortunately, Ryan died one month before graduation.

And, even more unfortunately, there are still young people dealing with HIV and AIDS today.

You can make a difference by donating to HIV/AIDS research at buylife.org, abstaining from risky activities and getting tested. Local testing sites include: Stanislaus Health Services Agency, 800 Delbon Ave., Ste. A, Turlock, 664-8000 and Golden Valley Health Centers, 1200 W. Main St., Turlock, 668-5388.

To contact Kristina Hacker, e-mail khacker@turlockjournal.com or call 634-9141 ext. 2004.

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