Saturday, November 19, 2011
Pull HIV/AIDS out of the Closet
I guess it’s time I take a few minutes and get on my soap box again. It’s been a while since I have last done that and so much has been building up. But the reason I’m on my soap box today is to ask you all to pull HIV/AIDS out of the closet and remove its dust. I don’t know where you are in your education, whether you’re positive or negative but HIV/AIDS is still around and it still affects us very much.
I have to say that I’m very happy I have met my boyfriend and kind of because of him, have gotten involved more in the HIV/AIDS community. Before I met him, my education was stuck somewhere in the early to mid 90′s. HIV/AIDS became a face for me with Freddy Mercury. I knew about prevention but I never really cared. It surely wouldn’t happen to me, would it? Luckily, it didn’t, but it wasn’t because I protected myself. I just got lucky. Preventing pregnancy was an issue that needed my attention much more than HIV/AIDS. Yes, I was more afraid of ending up with a baby I didn’t want than dying.
So, depending on your age, it may greatly affect your educational situation. Is it still the “Gay Disease” for you? Do you, like me before I met my boyfriend, know that HIV/AIDS is around but you will inevitably die from it eventually? Do you believe that HIV/AIDS only exists in Africa or is a manageable disease that requires you to take a pill or a couple more to live a normal life? Well, we’re all wrong. Yes, gay men are still very much at risk but HIV/AIDS really doesn’t discriminate. Whether you’re male or female, regardless of your sexual orientation, ethnicity or age, HIV/AIDS could affect you. Nobody is safe from it and stories like the “Berlin Patient” spur hope but they do not really provide a viable option for most of those with HIV/AIDS.
Add to that the stigma attached to HIV/AIDS. Once again, HIV/AIDS is non-discriminatory. But it doesn’t end there. There are so many myths about the transmission and unless you are well educated, you may not know what it takes for HIV to be transmitted. There is a long list of myths available but rest assured, HIV cannot be transmitted through casual contact, kissing, or even sharing the same eating utensils. Mosquitoes cannot transmit HIV, neither can air. A friend’s sister had her clothes washed separately after my friend suspected she might be HIV positive (the test came back negative). HIV, however, cannot be transmitted by clothes touching. Nevertheless, many HIV positive people are still afraid to publicly disclose their status because of said stigma. They are afraid because comprehensive education does not happen. They are afraid to be categorized, labeled and discriminated against.
But what may be most upsetting for someone with HIV is whenever they encounter those, who believe that HIV/AIDS is nothing more than maybe diabetes, which requires a daily pills or a couple more and that’s all there’s to it. Wow, are those people wrong! HIV/AIDS is a life-changing event that not only requires strict adherence to a pill regimen, but also the side effects of those pills. HIV/AIDS affects you 24/7. Whether it is the pain, the nausea, the fatigue, depression or one of many other “side effects” of the disease, the pills only ensure survival. Everything else only ensures that you won’t forget what you are up against. Yes, these days it is entirely possible to reach near normal life expectancy with HIV/AIDS, but don’t ever forget the price you are paying for it. HIV/AIDS and the medications prescribed are doing their best to destroy your body from the inside out. HIV/AIDS does not only affect the blood, but the nervous system, several organs, bone marrow, and the GI tract. You can read more about it here. Depending on the antiretroviral treatment prescribed and its side effects, the organ destruction only continues. Nevertheless, there are people out there, who will try to get infected intentionally. Although they have different motives, it is something I may never fully understand. Living with someone who is positive and suffering from a debilitating, incurable disease myself, I wouldn’t wish it on anyone.
However, if I had one wish, I would wish that HIV/AIDS finally leaves the closet it has been pushed into and that every kid and every adult in the entire world will get comprehensive education on a disease that is still very much alive in every part of the world, that nobody is safe from it and that it is not as easy as taking a pill to live with the infection.
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Posted by Kevin Maloney at 11:01 PM