Prevention: Getting the Message Across We live in what could aptly be described as the era of prevention in that many serious health threats are preventable. Just watch TV, leaf through a magazine, or browse the Internet: There are programs for AIDS prevention, campaigns to persuade smokers to break the habit, sunscreens that protect the skin from harmful rays, and warnings about high-sugar foods, high-fat foods, and obesity. To a large extent, we know what to do to promote good health and avoid disease and injury. But how do we convince ourselves and others to translate that knowledge into action?
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This problem gained urgency among people who suffer from AIDS. Earlier in the chapter, we noted that heart attacks, cancer, strokes, and accidents are more common causes of death than infectious diseases. But AIDS, the first truly global epidemic, appeared and then spread at an alarming rate. Years ago, AIDS was described as a microbiological time bomb. In 1981, five gay men in North Amer- ica were diagnosed with AIDS and were among only 189 cases reported that year. By 1996, the number of cases in North America had skyrocketed to three-quarters of a million and included heterosexual men, women, and children.