Of the countless, indelible images of Princess Diana, one of those with the most impact was her mid-1980s visit to a British hospital ward where most of the patients had AIDS. Caught on video, widely broadcast and discussed, was her famous handshake with a man who appeared to be seriously ill with a disease that was barely understood at the time and widely and wildly misunderstood. Her simple gesture was called "heroic," "foolhardy" and "reckless," but the image helped turn the tide of public opinion and encourage understanding of HIV and AIDS at a critical time.
Now, HIV and its transmission is known, understood and can be prevented better than ever, and patients with AIDS have new hope with better medications and more treatment options instead of the mid-1980s "death sentence." Local and national organizations work to broaden educational outreach for prevention and to provide low- or no-cost services. The AIDS Outreach Center of Tarrant County is the largest service referral resource serving Tarrant County residents and their families living with HIV/AIDS. The AOC provides a nutrition center, youth and children's services, legal services, counseling and confidential HIV/AIDS testing.
AOC executive director Dara Austin says although there has been much progress since 1983, when the virus was identified, there is plenty of room for more. "There remains an alarmingly widespread lack of education and knowledge about HIV/AIDS," Austin says. "Last year we served more than 1,200 people, a significant increase over 2002. No one should think that HIV/AIDS has been defeated."
Every year, the AOC raises money and increases awareness with its AIDS Walk and Fun Run beginning in Fort Worth at the Trinity Park Pavilion on West Seventh Street between downtown and University Drive. The 3.2-mile walk and run is the organization's major annual fund-raiser. "We hope to raise $150,000 this year," Austin says. The AOC depends on sponsored walkers/runners to raise money and is offering family-style entertainment to boost participation in the event. Radio personality Chris Jagger, from KDGE-FM 102.1 "The Edge," will make an appearance, and face-painting, refreshments and entertainment by The Coca Bann and Fort Worth Men's Chorus will be featured.
See that what some called reckless when Princess Diana did it nearly 20 years ago has become an everyday occurrence.