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A Mother's Mission

June 26, 2012, 6:09 PM by Casey Wonnenberg

A Mother's Mission

You might be surprised to learn there are hundreds of people in South Dakota living with HIV.

While the disease is usually preventable, the number of new HIV cases in the state have remained steady.  In fact, eight more patients have been diagnosed since April.

Twelve years separated John Taylor from his older brother Billy. Billy played the good role of older brother, even allowing John to take part in his senior picture, just one of the aspects of Billy's attitude that his mother admired.

"He was very adventurous and friendly, and nothing scared him," Cheryl Taylor said.

But Billy was faced with a scary situation when he was diagnosed with HIV at just 24 years old.

"It was a horrible moment, and I can still remember it like it was yesterday," Cheryl said.

They're not sure how Billy got HIV, but just a few years later in 1996, he lost his battle. Cheryl now has made it her mission to tell other mothers about the danger.

"Today if a person gets AIDS, you can't hide and say, 'I didn't know about it.' You should know about it," Cheryl said.

You may think you do not need to be tested for HIV, but the CDC recommends everyone ages 13 to 64 be tested at least once.  Depending on your risk, you may need to be tested again.

"If you're engaging in any of those activities that could possibly pass those fluids, then you should get retested every year or six months," Falls Community Health HIV Prevention Nurse Deb Olson said.

Olson is the HIV Prevention Nurse at Falls Community Health, where they offer free HIV testing, educate people about the disease and offer counseling.

"The CDC estimates that about 21 percent of the people who have HIV do not know they have it, and when they don't know, they can be unknowingly spreading it to other people," Olson said.

"If you have not talked to your child by the time they leave home and are off to college about AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases, you have not done your job as a parent," Taylor said.

Because Taylor knows there are a lot worse things in life than having a difficult conversation with your child.

"That's the future of our family, and that member of our family is gone," Taylor said.

Falls Community Health will offer free HIV testing on July 9 and 30 from 3 p.m. To 7 p.m. For more information or to schedule an appointment, call (605) 367-8793.

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