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Concert series raises funds and awareness for HIV prevention

A concert at Beaner's Central on Saturday night was planned to attract a young crowd ages 24 and under, because that's the age group at highest risk for HIV infection.

A concert at Beaner's Central on Saturday night was planned to attract a young crowd ages 24 and under, because that's the age group at highest risk for HIV infection.

Center for Disease Control (CDC) statistics show that approximately 80 percent of people diagnosed with HIV last year were under the age of 24.

"In our community, the people being diagnosed with HIV are under 24, and that's a huge tragedy," said Rosemary Thomas, program director for AIDS Information Duluth. "We want the young folks to know that this epidemic is affecting their community."

The concert on Saturday is the last of AIDS Information Duluth's first "Band-AIDS" HIV prevention concert series. Two concerts were held the weekend of May 23. Both local and regional talents performed at the Amazing Grace Cafe and at Pizza Lucรฉ, including Jim Hall, Mary Bue and Charlie Parr along with Amy Abst and the Champs, the Monarchs and the Keepaways.

On Saturday, June 7, at Beaner's, the local groups ALONE, So The Story Goes, and Boy Girl Boy Girl will stage a high-energy, punk rock performance. The concert starts at 8 p.m. and costs $3. All proceeds will go toward local HIV prevention efforts.

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Thomas said the two previous concerts attracted an older crowd and proved to be a great success. She hopes the concert on Saturday will send a clear message to the area's youths.

AIDS Information Duluth, a Lutheran Social Service program, has delivered more than 200 HIV prevention presentations to high schools, corrections facilities, halfway houses and other public and private institutions since it formed in August 2000. It's mission is to provide abstinence-based and age-appropriate HIV prevention education.

Although abstinence is the program's core message, education about condoms and other "risk reduction supplies" is provided.

"Abstinence is not 100 percent," said Thomas.

The program teaches communication and negotiation skills to both youths and adults.

"If a person is going to choose abstinence or risk reduction, they must be able to communicate that with their partner," said Thomas. HIV prevention doesn't come naturally, Thomas added. A person must have the ability to apply prevention information to their life.

Thomas said funding for HIV prevention education is scarce. AIDS Information Duluth depends on contributions from numerous local organizations and the community.

Thomas said 20 years ago the United States reacted quickly to the epidemic. Initially millions were anticipated to be infected, but because of prevention programs less than one million are infected today.

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"That's how important prevention is," said Thomas.

Thomas said certain groups, such as the gay community and drug users, are at higher risk for HIV, but in reality most people diagnosed with HIV are heterosexual and Caucasian.

Also, Thompson said the Twin Ports is viewed as a "wholesome community," which gives people a false sense of safety when it comes to HIV.

"It's not a huge problem here, but we want to make sure it's not a problem," said Thomas.

News to Use

What: AIDS Information Duluth "Band-AIDS" HIV prevention benefit concert.

Who: Local groups ALONE, So The Story Goes, and Boy Girl Boy Girl to perform.

When: Saturday, June 7, at 8 p.m.

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Where: Beaner's Central, 324 N. Central Ave.

Cost: $3

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