EDWARDS — Despite everything, HIV in Colorado is growing at about 3 percent a year, says the local Red Ribbon Project.
“Colorado statistics indicate the number of people living with HIV is still increasing, with the highest risk being young people,” said Denise Kipp, executive director of the local organization.
Since 1996, the Red Ribbon Project has helped lead the fight for sexual health in Eagle County.
The organization has widened its scope to include teenage pregnancy prevention and the overall emotional well-being of local adolescents.
It targets local middle and high schools, offering classes in sexual health, self-esteem, drug and alcohol prevention, anti-bullying, safety and sexuality in the digital world, and issues that young people face, Kipp said.
The group is the only nonprofit organization solely focused on sexual health in Eagle County, Kipp said.
Red Ribbon Project’s focus on sexual health has decreased teen births in Eagle County by almost half during the past four years, Kipp said. In 2009, there were 60 births to teens between the ages of 15-19. In 2012, there were 32.
“Sexual health dialogue must be more holistic, less about body policing and more about engaging the individual by providing youth with tools to make informed decisions and not just wrap-it-up conversations,” Kipp said. “Red Ribbon Project utilizes our classes as an opportunity to promote and support positive behaviors and target behaviors that can affect adolescents’ emotional health.
World AIDS Warrior
Former Vail ski instructor Chuck York is helping slow the spread of AIDS in the most obvious way; he sells condom vending machines.
York and several other Vail locals started C&G Manufacturing in 1986.
York’s machines are manufactured in Commerce City and shipped to Grand Junction, where he now lives. From there, York ships them to the furthest reaches of the earth. They’re now in 80 countries around the world. He recently sent 250 machines to El Salvador. An official from Namibia came to visit. So did some people from China.
York was a ski instructor in Michigan, but in 1969 headed west to Vail and immediately landed a gig as a ski instructor in Golden Peak.
He was on the front page of the Vail Trail for helping design high-back ski boots and was on his way to Europe to help Rieker ski boots develop the product.
Back then, Louie Pintowski owned The Slope and other places around Vail.
It was 1986, and the world was beginning to learn what AIDS was and how horribly it would kill you. NBA star Magic Johnson contracted it; Rock Hudson died from it.
Pintowski was looking around for condom machines to put in the restrooms of his businesses, but he couldn’t find any. So he got together with some friends and they started the company, York said. It was Pintowski’s 13th business.
Four years later, York and his wife, Gacia Sienz, bought the business and moved to Grand Junction.
York runs it pretty much by himself, but he’s not alone.
He worked with the Peace Corps in Niger, and seven of his machines went up in the Niger capital in hospitals, bars and hotels. One went up in a place called The Mall of Prostitution.
Those seven machines went through 66,000 condoms in less than 46 weeks, York said.
The United Nations found him on the web, www.condommachines.com, and asked him to help.
C&G Manufacturing is now affiliated with United Nations Population Fund, the Peace Corps, International Planned Parenthood Federation, Population Services International and The White House Office of National AIDS Policy. Its markets include South America, Europe, Australia, Africa, Canada, Russia, China, Mexico, Australia and the United States.
York calls himself “Captain Condom” and is proud of his business, and his legacy.
He was honored by the White House at the 2011 Peace Corps World Aids Day event.
“It is this kind of public-private partnership between the Peace Corps and businessmen like Chuck York, of C&G Manufacturing of Grand Junction, that has the potential to change and improve the way we fight this disease,” said Scott Evertz, director of the White House office of national AIDS policy in his address at the event.
“I don’t do it for the money. I do it to save lives,” York said.
Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 and email@example.com.