DEAR ABBY: Three weeks ago, I laid my beautiful 21-year-old daughter to rest. The cause of death: AIDS. A parent could not have wished for a more loving, talented and motivated child. In the recklessness of youth, she engaged in unprotected sex. By the time she was diagnosed, she had been HIV-positive for at least four years and already had full-blown AIDS. By then she had met a young man with whom she wanted to spend the rest of her life, and although they always used a condom, he, too, became infected.
Never did I think that AIDS would touch my family. You cannot imagine the toll this has taken on our entire family. She had three younger siblings, the youngest being 11 years old. Our heartbreak and sorrow have been overwhelming. I have seen the hopes, dreams and brilliant future of one of the true joys of my life destroyed. Seeing her gradually waste away to a mere shadow of the vivacious, outgoing young woman she once was, is the saddest thing I have ever experienced. She fought so hard to live; she suffered terribly in the last few months of her life.
Her death was so unnecessary, but now it must have meaning. No one can be too careful in this day and age. Each of us takes risks every day. Many of us do not pay any consequences for our risk-taking, while some pay a very high price for their actions.
Please print this letter in the hope that others may be spared her fate. This message is so important: Sex just isn't worth dying for! -- CATHERINE MENZIES, FORT LAUDERDALE, FLA.
DEAR CATHERINE: I offer my deepest sympathy on the tragic loss of your beloved daughter.
Condoms, when used properly, can significantly reduce the risk of contracting most sexually transmitted diseases, but they are not 100 percent effective. Even though there are exciting new developments in AIDS treatment, your letter -- and thousands of others that could be written -- clearly demonstrates the epidemic is far from over.
More than 30,000 people in the United States become infected with HIV every year. This letter should serve as a wake-up call.