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''Parents would not send their children out not knowing how to drive, yet they allow them to go out without knowing anything of biology,'' she said.
Adam Tenner, executive director of Metro TeenAIDS (MTA), said it is not just children who are unaware. He recalled serving with some MTA volunteers on a phone bank at the local Fox affiliate, answering questions about HIV/AIDS and refuting claims from callers that, for example, the virus can be spread through kissing.
''They were the same questions that people had 30 years ago,'' Tenner said. ''And these were adults, not teens calling in.''
The panelists touched on a number of other issues, including outreach to vulnerable populations, the prospect of hope for a cure or vaccine and the complicity of the media in failing to inform the general public, perhaps due to ''AIDS fatigue.''
In a follow-up interview after the event, Baker addressed the problem of ''AIDS fatigue,'' which he attributed to the need for more education about the disease in order to reduce the stigma surrounding it, particularly in sexual education classes, which he said need to become more innovative to effectively get the message across.
''The statement, 'Everyone knows how you get HIV,' you don't see that approach to lung cancer or obesity,'' Baker said.
Baker also stressed the need to address the fact that the disease still disproportionately affects gay and bisexual men. He said that refusing to acknowledge that was a ''subtle form of homophobia.''