The Web      Powered by


Return to Transcripts main page


RU+: A Look At HIV/AIDS Today

Aired November 28, 2004 - 22:00   ET


RICHARD GERE, ACTOR: If we do this work now, we may save those 10, 15 million lives.

MAGIC JOHNSON, HIV POSITIVE: Where the real story is that I had unprotected sex.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's nothing more important in the world than this, nothing.

GERE: We've been fighting this every single day. How do you break through?


SANJAY GUPTA: Hello, I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta in Hollywood. For many people, the story we're about to tell had one of its most defining moments here with a movie star dying of a mysterious virus. The year was 1985. The celebrity faces of Rock Hudson and Elizabeth Taylor were some of the first to be associated with HIV/AIDS and then the activism that followed.

But now, there's a course of strong voices, some famous, some remarkably ordinary, all of them singing out a wake-up call, pleading with us to recognize the new emerging crisis.

And our own backyards? In the board room, in retirement homes, church pews, and children's camps. And that's where we pick up the story at Camp Heartland.


KAITLYN KLEPZIG: Do I look scary to you? If I don't, would I if I told you that I have HIV? Hi, my name is Kaitlyn. I am 12 years old and HIV positive. All my life, I have been surrounded by people who hate me and by people who love me.

GUPTA (voice-over): Love and HIV, embodied 20 years ago by Ryan White, an endearing Indiana teenager who became the public face of pediatric AIDS.

Hate and HIV, words made real two decades ago when arsonists burned down the home of Ricky Ray, a nine-year old hemophiliac with HIV.

Kaitlyn Klepzig was born HIV positive. She was adopted when she was just two days old.

CLEO KLEPZIG, KAITLYN'S MOTHER: But there were no other infected children in the state of Montana at that time.

CASEY KLEPZIG, KAITLYN'S FATHER: And we were bringing in the biggest scare of the whole time. And that was a child with AIDS.

GUPTA: As a community struggled to understand the disease, Kaitlyn's parents struggled to explain it.

CLEO KLEPZIG: I can't imagine anyone else having to set their three-year old on the counter and saying you have to take this medicine or you will die. So that's just - she's looking at her own mortality at the age of three.

GUPTA: But for a new generation, a generation that has never known a world without AIDS, things are starting to change.

K. KLEPZIG: I am 12 years old, and I have been HIV positive for as long as I can remember, since I was born. And it's just been a great part of my life.

GUPTA: Part of the reason it's been so great is because of Camp Heartland, a safe haven where kids can hike, sing songs, perform skits and talk about AIDS. All the campers have been touched by HIV.

K. KLEPZIG: Nobody's mean to each other here. And you have nothing to be scared of. It's just the hardest thing is accepting sometimes what people think of you and how they look at you.

GUPTA: To be sure, stigma and discrimination are still very real to the more than 10,000 children under the age of 13 living in the United States with HIV or AIDS. That's why campers here practice telling their stories, something they'll do for real at schools around the country.

K. KLEPZIG: I went to see my birth mom a couple of months before she died, but sadly for me, I don't remember anything but the plane ride.

GUPTA: The fact that HIV/AIDS is no longer an automatic death sentence has probably done more than anything else to slow the stigma. Simply put, the drugs work.

When Liesl Christian was diagnosed eight years ago, doctors did not think she would live to see her high school graduation. She's now 20-years old, a college student, and a camp counselor at Heartland.

LIESL CHRISTIAN, HIV POSITIVE: Even though I was born with it, I know people who are my age, who are getting it through sex and drugs and all that stuff. So it can happen to you.

GUPTA: Of the 40,000 new infections every year in the U.S., more than half are in people under the age of 25. Every hour, nearly 250 people between the ages of 15 and 24 are infected. In some ways, modern medicine's success in treating, if not curing, AIDS has spawned apathy and ignorance about the disease. And high risk behavior has returned with a vengeance.

The voices of this generation.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: I think a lot of people my age, if you're talking about, kind of have a fear towards AIDS.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: My generation personally thinks of it as some distant, far away thing.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: There's a lot of mis - things about how it's spread. It's like - and like you can get from like touching somebody or like using something (UNINTELLIGIBLE) for somebody else.

And if you brush or something - I'm not sure - 100 percent sure how it spreads.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: And kids - we talk about like parents, guidance counselors, teachers because they feel really uncomfortable talking to them.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: There's going to be risk no matter what you do. Doesn't matter if it's one time or 1,000. Accidents is the only policy basically.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: But it could happen to us. And not many people really realize that.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: Society is more concerned about drugs and alcohol, getting pregnant. They're not really concerned about diseases.

GUPTA: These teens do not have HIV, but they live in world where prevention is key. In schools.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And so many of them are children.

GUPTA: On television. In magazines. Today's youth are besieged of images of HIV and AIDS. Rock stars, movie stars...

ASHLEY JUDD, ACTRESS: There is nothing more important in the world than this. Nothing.

GUPTA: And TV executives.

UNIDNETIFIED MALE: The only issue that tends to unite young people around the world is this issue of HIV/AIDS.

GUPTA: But young people are also bombarded with images of sexual behavior.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: It's really confusing to know what message you're supposed to believe, because there's people that are maybe like 16-years old having sex on TV. And then they show safe sex commercials. And it's like, what am I supposed to be doing?

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We're the ones also that are in the most - like - educated. And we're still...

LIESL CHRISTIAN, HIV POSITIVE: ...the ones that are going out there and getting infected all the time.

GUPTA: A national survey says one-third of sexually active teens do not use condoms. And fewer than one-third of sexually active teens have ever been tested.

And what about kids who are already infected? When it comes to sex, what are their lives like? Like most 14-year old boys, Ricky Webster gets a little flustered when he talks about girls at the beach.

RICKY WEBSTER, HIV POSITIVE: Girls is a big part of a man's life. I have so many girlfriends as girls that are friends.

GUPTA: But Ricky, who was adopted when he was seven weeks old, has a little more to worry about than the typical teenage boy.

He has a disease? HIV.

GUPTA: How's he doing with that, Dennis?

DENNIS WEBSTER, RICKY'S FATHER: He asked me at one time what if somebody with HIV had sex with another person who had HIV? Would that be all right? I said no, it wouldn't be because it could be a different strain. And you could reinfect that person with a different strain. And the same thing could happen to you.

GUPTA: So he's thought about it?

KATHIE WEBSTER, RICKY'S MOTHER: I just say you know what you've had to go through, you would never want to give this to someone else.

GUPTA: But children like Ricky, who live with HIV, aren't ready to sacrifice their dreams. They want normal lives.

Do you start to think about the future?

R. WEBSTER: I would like to be an active, basketball player. And a rapper.

GUPTA: For Ricky, Kaitlyn, and other kids living with HIV, can't is a word that no longer applies to them.

K. KLEPZIG: I've never even considered not living as long as most people. And I want to go to college, and I want to succeed, and I want to be - make something of myself.

GUPTA: They are part of the generation that has never known a world without AIDS, the same generation that now knows living with HIV as reality.



MAGIC JOHNSON: Just like they're sitting there in that (UNINTELLIGIBLE) and thinking it can't happen to them, I was sitting there with the Lakers saying it can't - it couldn't happen to me.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And later, the greatest generation faces new dating dilemmas in the age of AIDS. And we take you on heartfelt journeys with Richard Gere and Ashley Judd.



SHELLEY SINGER, HIV POSITIVE: I got HIV in my 20s, didn't know it all through my 30s. Now I'm living with the consequences of it in my 40s.

I guess I fell into that trap that you sort of think that this is about them. You know, those people, the bad people, you know, the people that deserve it, the people that didn't pay attention, that didn't listen. All I was doing was being a normal woman, just like everyone I know and everyone around me and everyone in that bar behind me.

I made my pact with God. I said listen, just don't shut me out. Don't give up on me. I'm finally paying attention.

GUPTA: Just as he took the NBA to a higher plain with his magic on the basketball court, he's working to do the same thing with HIV awareness.

I sat down and spoke with Irvin Magic Johnson. And he revealed to me his secrets behind a healthy life with HIV. But his message came with a warning.


MAGIC JOHNSON, HIV POSITIVE: Just like they're sitting there in that audience thinking it can't happen to them, I was sitting there with the Lakers thinking it can't - it couldn't happen to me. I thought I was invincible.

GUPTA: But what is the real story, though? What is the story that you tell them?

JOHNSON: Well, the real story is that I had unprotected sex. I mean, that's easy.

Because of the HIV virus that I have attained, I will have to retire from the Lakers.

The worst moment in all of this was driving from that doctor's office to my house to tell my wife I was HIV positive.

GUPTA: What was it that scared you so much or frustrated you so much about having to tell her?

JOHNSON: I didn't know what she was going to do. So not knowing whether she was going to stay or not. You know, because I told her I would understand if she wanted to leave.

So I think that was the toughest moment. And then when she told me that we're going to beat this together, I just...(sigh.)

The first year was hard for me to deal with. The second year was a little bit easier, but still difficult. It took me five years, five years to get this out of me. It was a difficult moment, and difficult time.

Then I came back one other time, because I wanted to go out my way. So I finished it. The guys were very receptive. I played in the all-star game and had a wonderful game and got the MVP. So I think guys said, oh, OK, he's OK, because everybody thought I was going to die like a year later, you know. And so, they didn't know.

Most people who are healthy, and I'm healthy, can't even live my life. Trust me. I get up 5:30, 6:00 every morning. I'm in the gym. I run a couple miles. I life weights. Then I'm at work until 8:00, 9:00 at night.

I take my medicine twice a day, whether it's...

GUPTA: How many pills?

JOHNSON: Four. I tell you. It's funny because the only time I think about HIV is when I have to take my medicine twice a day.

HIV and AIDS...

GUPTA: Because you look so good, what is your diet like?

JOHNSON: My diet is chicken and fish. Make sure that I get a lot of vegetables, a lot of fruit. I'm a big fruit and vegetable man anyway and also a lot of rest. And so, that's the key. I may be up early, but I'm to bed early, too.

I want to be here for a long time. So I'm going to do everything I have to do to be here. And I want to walk my daughter down the aisle and give her away to somebody one day. And I want to make sure I'm still here to make sure my two young men become men.

Young people want you to be real with them. Just because I'm doing well, doesn't mean they're going to do well if they get HIV.

Because we have to remember something, a lot of people have died since I announced. So this is not -- this disease is not going anywhere. And it's a tough disease to deal with.

So when I hit them with that, the room goes quiet. And I said the medicine is working in me, but because our bodies are different, it may not work in you.


GUPTA: In the weeks and months following Magic Johnson's announcement, the number of people who went into clinics to be tested increased an amazing 200 percent in some cities. That was 1991. But the message get tested has never been more critical than it is today.

Communities still battle the denial and the stigma that have been tied to this disease.


UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: We are still stuck on this concept that I don't support homosexuality, therefore, I am not addressing HIV. Who cares? Who cares where you support homosexuality or not? The fact is that we have a major crisis in our community.




DAVID BRITT, HIV POSITIVE: When I heard about it, AIDS had this little acronym, As I Die Slowly. You know, and you could get stuck on that. It's an ailment like anything else. I've been in the supermarket and two people in front of me are just passing around misinformation. And I'll tap one on the soldier, and I'll say listen, you got it wrong.

My ability to maybe impact somebody's life, so that they don't go through what I go through some days is the most important thing for me.

I am the person next door.

GUPTA: Today in the African-American community, AIDS does not discriminate. HIV can be found in every segment of this population. Homosexuals, heterosexuals, women, children. The numbers are staggering. Blacks, more than any other ethnic group, are being disproportionately impacted. And no one is being spared.


GUPTA (voice-over): Forty-six-year-old Vanessa Johnson has already lived twice as long as her doctors told her she would.


GUPTA: In 1990, she was a young law student and the mother of a six-year old son when she was diagnosed with HIV and told she had seven years to live.

JOHNSON: That scared me to death. I didn't want to suffer. And I knew that people suffered from this disease.

GUPTA: She suspects she was infected by her high school sweetheart. Although they never married, they dated for 18 years and had a child. But they weren't monogamous. And Vanessa knows her boyfriend had slept around. She thought he always wore a condom.

JOHNSON: He said he was. I believed him.

GUPTA: He died of AIDS in 1994. She says now all the signs were there. He did have affairs, and she believes some of them were with men.

JOHNSON: He had a lot of gay friends. He, at the end, would say things to try to let me know - to try to affirm what I already knew, but it was still difficult for him to come right out and say either my preference or my orientation is to have sex with men.

GUPTA: This situation isn't unique. It's called the down low, men who have wives or girlfriends and have sex with other men.

The down low is becoming more a part of our vernacular. It's been addressed in magazines and bestselling books. "Oprah" dedicated a whole show to it.

Although some are claiming the down low is responsible for much of the increase in HIV infection among black straight women, many experts are saying it just isn't so.

Vanessa, who now works as an AIDS activist, thinks the problem has been overblown.

JOHNSON: I don't think that all of men that are sleeping with women are on the down low. I think some of them are.

GUPTA: Experts from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention agree.

RASHAD BORGESE, CDC: When we look at African-American men who have sex with men, that do not disclose their sexual activities or sexual orientation, we actually find that they are less likely to have high-risk behavior and less likely to be HIV positive.

GUPTA: Experts say the reasons are many. Originally, AIDS was thought of as a gay white mans disease and was not on the radar screen in the black community. Add to that poverty, IV drug use, and the fact that blacks don't have the same access to primary healthcare.

Whatever the reason, the explosion of numbers in the black community, especially among straight women is undeniable.

BORGESE: AIDS rates amongst African-Americans are 10 times higher than that of whites. And for African-American women, the rate is 23 times higher compared to white women.

GUPTA: As the epidemic progressed, blacks have been hardest hit.

BORGESE: Roughly 30 percent of young gay and bisexual African- American men are HIV positive. And the only place in the world where we see that type of prevalence rate is in sub-Saharan Africa. GUPTA: And some argue it is the persistent stigmatization of these young gay black men, especially by their own community, that adds to the problem.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: Let's hear what your opinion is on that.

GUPTA: Like the young men he now counsels, Adolph St. Arromand knows the pressure of being young, black, and gay.

ADOLPH ST. ARROMAND, HIV POSITIVE: I confessed to having those feelings and being a homosexual male. And all went berserk in my family.

GUPTA: He says the pressure was intense.

ARROMAND: They prayed around me and did - also made me say stuff and say chant prayers and threw water at me and all those types of things to ease the spirits.

GUPTA: Then things got worse.

ARROMAND: My family, the very people who shared the same blood and same genes with me, have pretty much said to me, we don't want to have anything to do with you because of who you are.

GUPTA: By his 20th birthday, Adolph was diagnosed with AIDS.

ARROMAND: I began to personally in my mind and in my heart prepare for my death.


GUPTA: Vanessa was in part the victim of deception. And Adolph suffered from the stigma of being gay in the African-American community, which prevents many people from talking about it, let alone AIDS and HIV.


PHILL WILSON, THE BLACK AIDS INSTITUTE: We don't have open and honest discussions about the sexual diversity in our communities. And what we get out of that is people being unable to claim the truth of their lives.

GUPTA: Phill Wilson of the Black AIDS Institute thinks that silence may be doing the most damage of all. Even Adolph's partner, who is HIV negative, didn't want his identity revealed. He's afraid of the reaction he will get when people learn he is gay.

But as with most things, the problem is more complicated than that. There is also distrust of the medical profession, probably dating back to the Tuskegee experiment, according to Dr. David Malebranche, when black men were used as guinea pigs and allowed to die of syphilis.

DAVID MALEBRANCHE, DR., EMORY SCHOOL OF MEDICINE: If you don't trust who is giving the prevention message, you may or may not believe it.

GUPTA: Dr. Malebranche's practice is mainly black and mainly gay. His job is a difficult one.

MALEBRANCHE: Trying to get people to understand that this is a disease transmitted by behaviors, not who you are, your behaviors.

GUPTA: Lucky for him, he has some help.

Pernessa Seele and her organization, the Balm in Gilead, work with 10,000 black churches. Their goal? Start AIDS ministries and finally let go of the stigma that plagues the black community.

PERNESSA SEELE, THE BALM IN GILEAD: We want the church to dismantle the idea of stigma to get past stigma, so that we can do the work that we must do, the church must do, to address HIV/AIDS.

GUPTA: But they're not quite there yet.

SEELE: We are still stuck on this concept that I don't support homosexuality, therefore, I'm not addressing HIV. Who cares, who cares whether you support homosexuality or not? The fact is that we have a major crisis in our community.

GUPTA: The project is starting to gain traction. Churches like Bethel A.M.E. in Wilmington, Delaware are starting AIDS ministries for the first time. Not only do they acknowledge AIDS, but they also do everything from testing, to counseling. But many black churches still seem to be paralyzed by the issue of homosexuality.

SILVESTER BEAMAN, REV., BETHEL AME CHURCH: Ministers need to - we need to stop being judgmental and realize that this is not God's curse upon a segment or a population.

GUPTA: But he is optimistic they will one day get beyond that, because in the end, he says, it's most important to save lives.

WILSON: The day will come when all of us are going to be asked the question, what did you do? What did you do? People were dying. People were getting sick. It didn't have to happen. What did you do?


GUPTA: If Hollywood stars Ashley Judd and Richard Gere are asked what did you do, they won't have to answer nothing.


JUDD: I believe I can be a part of something that helps spark a revolution.

GERE: I was coming to India for almost three decades now. And sometimes, two, three, even four times a year. I love India. And I hate this disease.



GUPTA: The sunset of life is suddenly much brighter for the aging baby boomer population. Not satisfied with sitting in rocking chairs and shuffling along the beach, today's retirees are benefiting from the explosion of so-called lifestyle drugs. And they're staying active. But could this combination have a darker side? Are today's single seniors re-entering the dating game without realizing there's a risk?


GUPTA (voice-over): Jane Fowler is 69 and does what many grandmothers like to do, spoil her grandkids. She's also single, divorced now for over 20 years.

JANE FOWLER, HIV POSITIVE: And I had my career as a journalist. What I didn't have was the social life that I'd enjoyed as half a couple.

GUPTA: So at age 48, she re-entered the dating scene. Seven years later, she received a disturbing letter from a life insurance company.

FOWLER: I got a kind of form letter saying that -- that I could not be insured. The company would not insure me because I -- my blood test had -- had shown a significant abnormality.

GUPTA: And that's how she found out she had HIV. She was 55 years old.

FOWLER: I was devastated.

I had heard about this mysterious fatal ailment that was affecting the gay community, but I was heterosexual. So what did I have to be concerned about?

GUPTA: AIDS is rarely thought of as a disease affecting middle aged heterosexuals, but Fowler's story is becoming increasingly common.

FOWLER: And this man was a very good friend. This man was a member of my wedding party. This man married after I did and divorced before I did. So it was kind of natural for -- for us to begin seeing each other after my divorce.

GUPTA: Before he died, he made Jane HIV positive.

FOWLER: I say to everyone in any age you do not know the sexual history of anybody else, only yourself.

DR. RON VALDISERRI, CDC: Unfortunately, there's still that misperception that people are only at risk for HIV if they're gay or if they use drugs or if they're highly sexually active with multiple partners. And the reality is, it only takes one partner to become infected with HIV.

GUPTA: Across the United States, people over the age of 50 make up fewer than 10 percent of new diagnoses, but some experts believe the real infection rate is higher, because doctors mistake the symptoms for aging.

JOLENE MULLINS, BROWARD COUNTY HEALTH DEPARTMENT: Many of the early symptoms of HIV infection, the rashes, the fevers, the weight loss, even the forgetfulness, is really mimicking the natural aging process.

GUPTA (on camera): And many young doctors are simply uncomfortable talking to seniors about sex.

(voice-over) Here in south Florida, the AIDS rate among seniors is stunning. In Broward County, the AIDS rate is one in seven, and in Miami-Dade and Palm Beach County, it's one in six for those above the age of 50.

(on camera) It turns out seniors are dating and having sex more than ever before.

UNIDENTIFIED FEMALE: And with the advent of medications like Viagra and Cialis and Levitra, the ones that enhance male potency, the -- people's life, as far as their sexual stamina, has certainly expanded into 60, 70, 80, 90 years old.

GUPTA (voice-over): The problem is sex among seniors often does not mean safe sex.

MIRIAM SCHULLER, "CONDOM GRANDMA": We were brought up in ignorance. We knew only that when we got married, you use a condom to prevent pregnancy. And that's all. We didn't have that terrible disease.

GUPTA: Miriam Schuller isn't currently dating and isn't HIV positive, but she knows the sometimes lonely life of a widow and understands why seniors date.

SCHULLER: Absolutely.

GUPTA: She calls herself "Condom Grandma." By handing out thousands of condoms as part of an ambitious program by the Florida Department of Health to raise awareness among seniors.

The problem is, many seniors don't see themselves at risk. They're more likely to become infected without knowing it and pass the disease on to others.

Then there's another amazing part of the equation: among south Floridian seniors, there's only one man for every seven women.

MULLINS: Those women are looking for partners, and those men are looking for partners, as well. And the sharing of partners has become more and more common.

GUPTA: At age 78, after losing two husbands, Evelyn Gross-Brein never thought she'd feel like a teenager again, but look at her now.

EVELYN GROSS-BREIN, FLORIDA RESIDENT: You sort of get excited. You get a second wind when you get to be our age. There's a new adventure.

GUPTA: Especially when the golden years are spent in self- contained communities kind of like college dormitories, with thousands of people your own age.

She met her boyfriend, Peter, there and they say growing old doesn't mean life gets dull.


GROSS-BREIN: For instance, wish you could buy Victoria's Secret, or even at a sex toy shop.

GUPTA: Evelyn is HIV negative but has seen the devastation caused by the virus. She wants to be safe but says convincing men of her generation to wear condoms is a tough sell.

GROSS-BREIN: Men of that age have gone through, what, the war in the '40s, have never worn a condom and they say, "I never have, and I never will."

GUPTA: Peter doesn't like to use them.

FIGUEROA: But I don't go out with a woman the first night, the second night, even the first week. I have to have the story of a woman. I have to know where she comes from. And I know -- I want to know how clean she is.

So I -- that's what I do. I don't like to wear condoms.

GUPTA: Evelyn tells her senior friends not to go to bed with men if they won't use a condom, but she takes it one step further, as well. She gives them advice on how to convince the men to get tested.

GROSS-BREIN: What I suggest to them is to say, "Honey, you know we have a date tomorrow. And we're going to do something different."

And then he says, "What are we going to do that's different?'

And you say, "We are going to go, and we're going to have -- and we're going to go in and get tested for HIV/AIDS."

GUPTA: She says it worked like a charm on Peter.

GRAPHIC: After exposure, HIV may not show up on a test for 90 days up to one year. CDC AIDS hotline 800-342-AIDS (2437).

ANNOUNCER: Could this cheap, illegal street drug cause a new explosion in AIDS cases? That story and more when "RU+ (ARE YOU POSITIVE?)" continues.

(COMMERCIAL BREAK) GUPTA (on camera): In the mid-1980s, the gay community declared war on HIV. The adoption of safe sex practices was extraordinary, considered by some sociologists as one of the most radical changes of human behavior ever witnessed.

Nearly 25 years later, this group is facing new challenges in teaching what's now considered an old message but with an addictive twist named Tina.

TOMMY FOSTER, ACTOR: In high school, I was a total geek. I didn't smoke. I didn't drink until I was in college and I was drug free until I was 24.

GUPTA: Twenty-seven-year-old Tommy Foster is a struggling Broadway actor in New York City. He looks like an all-American boy.

FOSTER: Just say no. No. (singing) Who needs a mother? Not I.

GUPTA: The songs are Broadway tunes. The context, his life's story. The date, the one-year anniversary of the day he was diagnosed HIV positive.

FOSTER: For nearly 20 years, I was Nancy Reagan's poster child for a drug free America. Just Say No and the DARE program scared me silly.

GUPTA: You might say he's a poster child for a new face of HIV/AIDS. Difficult times and a craving for acceptance led Tommy into a rising subculture which is tearing up the gay community, both medically and morally.

FOSTER: I gave into a craving, a three-day marathon of unprotected crystallized sex that did leave me infected with HIV, with no idea who gave it to me.

The purpose in me doing my show is to offer myself and what happened to me up as a specimen to be examined.

GUPTA: Crystal methamphetamine, also known as crystal, meth, crank, ice, or Tina, is a cheap, highly potent stimulant. It first surfaced in poor areas of the rural Midwest and southern United States.

More recently, it's been glamorized in certain sexually charged environments in some gay communities across America.

(on camera) You can snort it. You can smoke it. You can inject it. You can swallow it. Simply put, it messes with the serotonin and dopamine in your brain. Those are the cells that stabilize mood. It will keep you up for days, take away all your inhibitions and is as addictive, if not more so, than heroin.

FOSTER: You get a rush of almost like adrenalin immediately. Just -- just thinking -- just thinking about doing it causes my body to react as if I had just done it. And it's like all of a sudden your eyes focus in a way that you've never seen things before. And immediately, it turns everything sexual, everything sexual.

DR. HOWARD GROSSMAN, HIV SPECIALIST: With the advent of drugs for erectile dysfunction, we're seeing the tie-in of -- of crystal and staying up all night and staying up for days in a row tied in with sex.

GUPTA: Dr. Howard Grossman has been working with AIDS patients since 1981.

GROSSMAN: They can go on and on having sex for days, literally. And they do it. I mean, it's like the man's fantasy come true, let's face it.

GUPTA: Which is why crystal is being blamed for contributing to the increase in HIV infections among gay men, which according to the latest CDC reports, is up 17 percent.

PERRY HALKITIS, NEW YORK UNIVERSITY: It's 20 years into the epidemic. You'd think this wouldn't be going on any more.

GUPTA: Perry Halkitis, who has been tracking crystal use in New York since 1998, has just published the first study to show a clear link between crystal meth use and HIV transmission.

HALKITIS: Men who use methamphetamine tend to be hypersexual. They tend to have higher levels of anonymous partnerings, more partners, more men that they have sex with unsafely than men who do not use this drug.

GROSSMAN: I have patients who tell me they haven't had sex for the last three years without being high on crystal. And so how do they separate that out? When they go into recovery, they're afraid they're never going to have sex again.

GUPTA: In the mid-80s, after Rock Hudson disclosed he was dying of AIDS, more than 50 percent of gay men in New York City and San Francisco were HIV positive.

There are currently massive campaigns on both coasts to draw attention to the problem and to educate people about the effects of this drug. Experts, activists and community leaders are convinced this problem is already spreading into other populations around the country.

The numbers have dropped since then, but crystal use may have a hand in reversing that trend.

PETER STALEY, HIV POSITIVE: The fact that 10 to 15 percent of gay men are using it, and half of those are HIV positive is a very shocking number.

GUPTA: Peter Staley was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, when it was considered a death sentence. Anger and frustration pushed Staley to join ACT UP, and he became one of the most recognizable faces in gay rights and AIDS activism.

He was on the front line of a societal transformation.

STALEY: Every gay man started wearing condoms if they engaged in sex. And it almost completely eliminated the spread of HIV among gay men.

GUPTA: And when the protease inhibitors arrived in the late 1990s, people started living longer than ever before. But something else happened.

STALEY: I think safe sex fatigue set in, and there also was a rise of -- of complacency about what living with HIV actually meant.

FOSTER: There are young guys that aren't scared of it anymore. So they're being a little more lax about it. I knew better. But on the drug, you'll let anybody do anything.

After a two and a half year struggle with his own crystal addiction, Staley was compelled to move again to the front line.

STALEY: This is a very dangerous drug. It's destroying the lives of many of my friends, and we need to have that conversation and ask why we're playing with this particular drug.

GUPTA: Staley started that conservation by posting provocative in-your-face ads around Chelsea. That's New York's self-proclaimed gay ghetto. Which triggered an immediate reaction from all sides, including the city government which helped fund the campaign.

Staley's now working with New York's HIV Forum to change the social norms around the drug.

UNIDENTIFIED MALE: The title of the campaign is "Crystal Free and Sexy." So what's sexy to you? I'm crystal free.

GUPTA: A similar ad was launched in San Francisco's gay neighborhoods, where crystal use has been rampant for the past few years and has left a devastating hang over.

And they're targeting the highway, where men cruise for drug- inducted sexual encounters, the Internet. Along with ads for party and play, or "BB," which is slang for "Tina" and unprotected sex, are pop up ads, surveys and links to crystal information sites, straight talk about crystal, sex and HIV.

STALEY: You can't stop the spread of HIV unless you talk about sex.

HALKITIS: Methamphetamine in New York City is right now primarily a problem in the gay community. It is not going to stay a problem in the gay community.

GROSSMAN: It's already spread into straight communities in the people who party, and it will spread into colleges and -- and high schools all over (ph).

FOSTER: I don't want other people to end up in the situation that I'm in. I want to make a difference, and I'm not going to wait until I'm a big movie star to do it, because I may never be a big movie star.

ANNOUNCER: Next on "RU+ (ARE YOU POSITIVE?)" we travel with today's celebrities, fighting AIDS at home and around the world.


IRENE BEGAY, DIAGNOSED HIV POSITIVE IN 2000: I was working 12- hour shifts, and I was kind of behind, and I was trying to get all my blood drawn.

I don't know why I was trying to recap the needle, but I stuck my finger and I looked and oh, my gosh. My daughter took me home, back to the reservation. And I don't know how many medicine men I went to. I didn't want to die. I wanted to beat this thing. I wanted to beat this sickness. I don't want it to beat me.

GUPTA: In Hollywood, the stars who have made their names household words happily leave their handprints and their footprints here at the Grauman's Chinese Theater. But for some, the celebrity journey doesn't end there. There are additional steps, keeping pace with some of the world's most pressing health problems.

Our walk into the world of AIDS took us to India and teamed us up with Richard Gere.


GUPTA (voice-over): He is known around the world for his movies. But at the Naz orphanage in India, these children know him simply as Richard, the man who provides a roof over their head, food on their table, a place to play and who loves them when so many Indians fear them, because they all have HIV.

The cost, nearly $100,000 a year, and Gere foots the bill.

RICHARD GERE, THE GERE FOUNDATION: The most important message you see in a place like this is separating the person from the disease. These are our brothers and sisters who have an illness.

GUPTA: A message that most of India has yet to understand. These kids haven't even been told they have HIV. You see, the stigma would simply be too great.

But there have been small steps forward. In the past, adults with AIDS would show up at the orphanage looking for a place to die, because hospitals turned them away.

(on camera) But would you say that this place is a successful place over the last five years?

GERE: Well, you know, I wish -- I wish you saw what this was like five years ago. We had kids, adults, women and men, in bunks just lined up, all of them in some stage of dying.

GUPTA: Some say attitudes towards HIV/AIDS are changing. Others are less optimistic.

ASHON ALEXANDER, BILL AND MELINDA GATES FOUNDATION: I wish it was what I was finding, Sanjay. I think there are exceptional cases such as this, but by and large, the situation we encounter is one of tremendous discrimination.

GUPTA: Ashon Alexander is Bill Gates' man in India, charged with using $200 million over five years to fight discrimination and raise awareness.

The Gates Foundation and many other organizations are alarmed by what's happening in India. Best estimates are that 5.1 million people are infected here, second only to South Africa. Even more frightening, by the end of the decade, that number could increase five times to 25 million.

(on camera) Well, India is at a crucial crossroads. Will it become the next Africa, where HIV has been a catastrophe, erasing decades of social and economic progress? Or could it become the next Thailand, the only country in Asia thus far to control HIV?

And that's where we find Ashley Judd.

(voice-over) Like Richard Gere, Ashley Judd knows the true toll of the disease, as seen through the eyes of children. She's the Youth AIDS Global Ambassador for Population Services International.

ASHLEY JUDD, YOUTH AIDS GLOBAL AMBASSADOR: We're teaching 6- year-olds about condom use and how to negotiate to protect themselves with sex, because that's what's happening to them on the streets.

These kids are going to be trafficked for sex if we don't get to them first. And the good news is it doesn't cost much. Ten dollars a kid a year, 10 bucks. That's, you know, a medium pizza.

GUPTA: In Thailand, after an explosion of HIV in the sex industry threatened to spread throughout society, the government worked with brothel owners to enforce condom use. As a result, HIV infections have been drastically reduced.

India is not there yet, but as we travel throughout the country, it does seem things are starting to change.

Peter Mukerjea is the head of Star TV, India's top television network. It's spending $14 million U.S. over the next three years on public service announcements, like this one with cricket star Rahul Dravid, the most famous athlete in India.

RAHUL DRAVID, CRICKET STAR: Walking onto the green with no protection? Foolish, isn't it?

GUPTA (on camera): In order to adequately talk about AIDS, you have to talk about sex, IV drug use, brothels, men having sex with men. Those subjects are considered very taboo. How do you overcome that? PETER MUKERJEA, CHIEF EXECUTIVE, STAR TV: One of the things that we see a big role for a media company in this is that, you know, we're able to lift the veil of -- of some of this -- some of these issues.

GUPTA (voice-over): And the approach is winning official approval. S.Y. Qureshi leads the Indian government's drive against AIDS.

S.Y. QURESHI, NATIONAL AIDS CONTROL ORGANIZATION: I would like to start a daily soap like "Bold and Beautiful," you know, so we can go on and on. And we will tell stories of HIV positive people.

GUPTA: He says that would reach half of India. But as for the other half, who live in rural areas, there's what he calls folk media.

QURESHI: Folk media is, you know, people in the villages. They live in the villages, you know, and they help. Like, you know, they have devotional singing, a puppet (ph), priest (ph), or all kinds of the local dramas, the theater.

GUPTA: And that's one way of reaching the five million truckers who spend months away from home, crisscrossing India. These are one of the most at-risk groups. Eight thousand of them come through this truck terminal in Mumbai every month.

And it's no coincidence that the cities with the biggest truck stops also have some of the largest red light districts and that truckers and prostitutes are among the most infected.

DR. SHILPA MERCHANT, POPULATION SERVICES, NIE: Obviously (ph) for truckers it ranges from nine percent to 13 percent and from sex workers, about 50 percent.

GUPTA: Like many women in India's vast sex trade, Sakubai (ph) waits on Falkland (ph) Road, notorious red light district in Mumbai. She makes less than a dollar off of each trick.

But at least Sakubai (ph) and other sex workers are getting some training. Now, like their counterparts in Thailand, they demand that clients wear condoms.

India may have a long way to go in tackling the twin evils of ignorance and prejudice, but it does have one huge advantage: a thriving drug industry. Most developing countries can't afford the powerful drug cocktails that can keep AIDS patients alive. Here, a company called Cipla is churning them out.

Brand name versions of these drugs cost about $10,000 a year per patient. But Cipla makes generic versions for about $200. Still expensive, but finally within reach.

The big pharmaceutical companies accuse Cipla of piracy, a charge rejected by the company's boss.

Y.K. HAMIED, CIPLA PHARMACEUTICALS: We as a company live by the rules of the land. GUPTA: It's completely legal in India. And, he insists, it's not all about money.

(on camera) If you sold all the drugs that you have in this room at U.S. prices, about how much money would you make?

HAMIED: It would be at least $10-20 billion.

GUPTA: How much money do you make?

HAMIED: Do I make with our exports and everything? About $500 million a year.

GUPTA (voice-over): A ray of hope that India's economic progress may help prevent a social catastrophe. But few doubt that education and prevention ultimately hold the key.

GERE: We can do this work now. We may save those 10, 15 million lives, and it gives you a lot of focus. I mean, how many things in your life can you do that have that kind of impact on the people around you?

GUPTA (on camera): From Asia to Africa to right here in America, you'll find people simply learning to live with AIDS. Many believe we're far from finding a cure.

For those infected, they put their hopes in the miracles of medicine. For those not infected, prevention efforts hold the key to stalling this pandemic.

Our biggest challenge may simply be our own mindsets and our own complacency. And that, of course, is everyone's challenge.

I'm Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Thanks for watching.



On CNN TV E-mail Services CNN Mobile CNN AvantGo CNNtext Ad info Preferences
   The Web     
Powered by
© 2005 Cable News Network LP, LLLP.
A Time Warner Company. All Rights Reserved.
Terms under which this service is provided to you.
Read our privacy guidelines. Contact us.
external link
All external sites will open in a new browser. does not endorse external sites.
 Premium content icon Denotes premium content.