KRISTA BLAKE, TEENAGE HIV VICTIM
No one can be left behind if the AIDS epidemic is to come to an end by 2030. This was one of the main messages of the 20th International AIDS Conference, which closed in Melbourne, Australia, on 25 July (2014).*
The publicity for the conference was increased, unfortunately, by an airline crash that killed 6 participants. Organizers of the conference, held in Melbourne, Australia, determined not to cancel the event because they felt continuing would be what the victims would have wanted.
Reading about the conference brought back memories of a young woman with AIDS. The Family Support Group (FSP) of Jamestown, Pennsylvania, invited her to speak to community members on September 30, 1992. In light of the Melbourne conference I thought it appropriate to retell her story, which is still relevant today.
Krista, who contracted the AIDS virus at age 16, learned she was HIV positive at age 18. In January 1992 Krista spoke at Thiel College in Greenville, Pennsylvania. Margaret Young, an FSP board member, and I attended the event, at which a vibrant, capable speaker presided. In April, when speaking at Edinboro State College (PA), she was described as “gutsy, independent, funny…and she’s been given a virtual death sentence.”**
When the Ohio woman arrived in Jamestown September 30th Margaret noted “how downhill Krista had gone.” We saw that her health had deteriorated to the point that, as head of the FSP, I debated whether to even allow her to speak. She had trouble breathing and she had to struggle to get every word out.
It was difficult to stop Krista from speaking, even though her sister was present and knew what she wanted to say. However, I felt that Krista was due the respect of making the decision on what she could handle, even if she was tired and had a headache.
Krista was so unable to sit still during the presentation that she “unnerved” Margaret. She not only struggled with her words, at times she struggled with her thoughts. As she spoke, her sister had to answer many questions for her.
have children. I can’t get married, and I probably won’t live long enough to see my sister graduate from college.”
The Youngstown State University (Ohio) student learned in October 1990 that she not only HIV positive, but she’d had the virus in her system for about two years. She dropped out of college—“I figured what good is an education when I’m dead”—and began lecturing about HIV, sharing her knowledge.
At that time, she was engaged to be married.
Krista didn’t believe she was at risk for the disease. At the age of 15 she dated a 23-year old hemophiliac for six months. He knew he had AIDS before, during and after they had sex. When she asked him why he never told her he said “I didn’t think it was important at the time.”
“You may think you know everything about a guy, but you don’t,” she said while sharing her perspective on AIDS. “The only person you can count on is you.
“You must mix responsibility with right. Don’t endanger others or yourself. Stop and examine your behavior honestly.
“There are always risks unless you practice abstinence. If you do choose to participate in risky behavior, use proper protection. The heterosexual population is the fastest one for growth of HIV positive cases—ages 13-31.”
Krista’s psychologist helped her deal with the coming fatality of her HIV. Her philosophy is that “death is a part of life…I’ve been told to prepare for it.”
She described a strong medical regimen of medications, including shots—some of which stops her monthly cycle as a way to avoid blood loss. She had an IV medication tube in her chest, which she called Herman the Hose. “It’s very romantic. We take a shower together.”
If concerned citizens are interested in showing support for AIDS patients, Krista suggests they should strive to tell the truth so all the myths about the disease end.***
When Krista finished her presentation, her sister said she would likely sleep all the way home and all the next day. Krista claimed “It’s no big deal.”
Cleveland (AP) – Krista Blake, 22, an AIDS activist…died Monday (25 April 1994) of AIDS-related pneumonia. She was 22.
Miss Blake, of Columbiana in Mahoning County, was admitted to University Hospital on March 25 for treatment and discharged April 6, her mother said. She was readmitted April 14, two days before her 22nd birthday.
“She didn’t look bad. She just looked tired,” her mother, Erle Blake, said. “There was no fight. I was sitting on the bed talking to her and she just quit breathing—just the way I prayed she would go.”
Miss Blake said her AIDS-education work gave her a sense of mission and a reason to live.****
The AIDS 2014 conference concluded with a general sense that, despite all the progress made to date, the social determinants of the epidemic still need to be addressed. Existing punitive laws and stigma and discrimination were identified as some of the main barriers to bringing the epidemic under control. Catering for the needs of adolescents and key populations at higher risk of infection was identified as important for an effective response to AIDS, as well as focusing programmes in the geographical areas where most new HIV infections occur.*
** Teen reveals own reality of AIDS, Cleo J. Logan, The Meadville Tribune, 1992 April 1, pp. A-11
*** Woman, 19, fights battle with killer, Cleo J. Logan, The Meadville Tribune, 1992 April 4. Pp B1
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