Eagle County observes World AIDS Day Thursday | VailDaily.com

Eagle County observes World AIDS Day Thursday

Randy Wyrickrwyrick@vaildaily.comVAIL CO, Colorado
World AIDS Day
Getty Images/Hemera | Hemera

The United Nations says AIDS is leveling off.Chuck York is helping slow the spread of AIDS in the most obvious way; he sells condom vending machines.York, a former Eagle County resident, and several other Vail locals started the company in 1986.”I just shipped 600 machines to Moscow and I’m shipping 400 to Ghana next week,” said York.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, and on every continent.

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 Pintkowski owned The Slope, a bar, and other places around Vail.It was 1986 and the world was beginning to learn what AIDS was .”Back in 1986, lots of folks were getting AIDS. Rock Hudson died from AIDS. Magic Johnson had contracted it,” York said.Pintkowski was looking around for condom machines to put in the restrooms of his businesses, but couldn’t find any. So he got together with some friends and they started the company, called C&G Manufacturing.York is proud to be a one-man show in America.”There’s no other country in the world where a one-man show could do what I do,” York said.But he’s not in this alone, he quickly adds.York worked with the Peace Corps in Niger, and seven of his machines went up in the Niger capital in hospitals bars and hotels. Those seven machines went through 66,000 condoms in less than 46 weeks, York said.The U.N. found him on the web, condommachines.com, and asked him to help.C&G is now affiliated with United Nations Population Fund, the Peace Corps, International Planned Parenthood Federation and more. They’re one of the largest suppliers to colleges and universities in the United States.

World AIDS Day began in 1989 to raise awareness about the global battle against HIV/AIDS. This year’s goal is to launch an AIDS-free generation by 2015.Locally, The Red Ribbon Project promotes a healthy lifestyle and healthy sexuality through awareness, prevention, education and support to everyone in Eagle County, says Denise Kipp, executive director.”Colorado statistics indicate the number of people living with HIV is still increasing at a rate of 3 percent per year, with the highest at risk being young people,” Kipp said.Much of Red Ribbon Project’s education effort is focused in local middle and high school through its Youth Skills Building Program. Students learn not only information about HIV and STDs, but self-esteem, drug and alcohol prevention, depression and suicide prevention, anti-bullying and goal setting.Battle Mountain High School’s Michael Evans won this year’s poster contest.”While HIV/AIDS is not a huge problem in Eagle County, it is the Red Ribbon Project’s goal to keep it that way,” Kipp said.According to the Colorado Department of Public Health and Environment, there are 59 presumed cases of HIV/AIDS in Eagle County, based on the Dec. 2010 Colorado HIV Surveillance Report. The number of new infections has not changed since 2007, 2.7 million per year for each of the last three years, says the UNAIDS report.At the end of 2010, 34 million people had HIV, an increase attributed to infected people living longer. And 2010 saw 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths, down from 1.9 million in 2009.AIDS numbers are down 26 percent in southern Africa since its 1997 peak, the region hit hardest. But it’s surging in eastern Europe and central Asia, where there has been a 250 percent jump in the number of people infected with HIV in the past decade. Most of that’s among injecting drug users, the U.N. report says.In North America and western Europe, the outbreak “remains stubbornly steady,” the report said.In its strategy for the next few years, UNAIDS says it is working toward zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.Dr. Paul De Lay, deputy executive director of UNAIDS, said eliminating AIDS infections and deaths won’t likely happen without a vaccine, which could take decades. Staff Writer Randy Wyrick can be reached at 970-748-2935 or rwyrick@vaildaily.com.

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