My Personal Scare with HIV/AIDS

Picture AIDS/HIV is a disease that effects people around the world. Living with AIDS is possible; and preventing its spread is possible with appropriate treatment and precautions.  “Getting to Zero” is the theme of World AIDS Day 2011-2015, which has been celebrated on Dec. 1 since 1988.

The spread of HIV requires the exchange of bodily fluids:  semen, blood, breast milk, and vaginal secretions.  One cannot gets HIV from drinking from a water fountain right after someone with HIV has drunk from that fountain.  It is not even possible to spread HIV for casual kissing or shaking hands, sharing towel or even from sharing food or water with someone who is HIV positive. We have heard this for many years, yet it is still a disease that sets the average person into a panic.

This past year, for the first time in my life, AIDS smacked me in the face.  I had always thought “I don’t do anything that would cause me to be concerned about HIV or AIDS. That is for other people.”  Yet, when I was told by a friend that someone I had dated died of AIDS, I had my own little panic.  There was a time when my late fiance’ Bill and I broke up and I dated another man.  In this “it’s a small world” scenario, I was chatting with a friend one afternoon about hobbies and we discovered that we had a friend in common.  He then informed me that our mutual friend had died just three months after Bill had died in a car accident 13 years ago.   I then told him that man and I had dated for a short while.

I am an information junky.  This information sent me on a search to find pictures and to the internet to prove we were not talking about the same person.  Instead, I found proof that we did indeed have a mutual friend and that he was deceased.  So, that recognition caused me to do more research about the diseases of HIV and AIDS.  When I discovered that someone could live with the HIV and not know it.  All kinds of questions went through my head.  I wondered if this man had the disease when we dated and didn’t know it.  I wondered how he had contracted it.  It also reminded me that Bill’s best childhood friend had HIV and how awful I had heard that the drug known as AZT and more commonly called “cocktails” were.  Bill had lost track of him a couple of years before he died and feared that the cocktails were no longer working.  I wondered if it was possible that I hand contracted the disease and didn’t know it.  The only way to alleviate my fears was to have a blood test.  The blood test showed I was negative.

According to the World Health Organization (http://www.who.int/mediacentre/factsheets/fs360/en/index.html), AIDS continues to be a pandemic.

  • HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 25 million lives over the past three decades.
  • There were approximately 34 [31.4–35.9] million people living with HIV in 2011.
  • Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV. Sixty nine per cent of all people living with HIV are living in this region.
  • HIV infection is usually diagnosed through blood tests detecting the presence or absence of HIV antibodies.
  • There is no cure for HIV infection. However, effective treatment with antiretroviral drugs can control the virus so that people with HIV can enjoy healthy and productive lives.
  • In 2011, more than 8 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries. Another 7 million people need to be enrolled in treatment to meet the target of providing ART to 15 million people by 2015.

HIV and AIDS are not the same.  However, severe cases of HIV can become AIDS.  HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) targets the immune system and makes if difficult for the body to fight off other diseases.  It takes three to six weeks from the date of exposure before the disease can be detected, yet the disease may still be transmittable during that time.  The most advanced state of HIV is AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).  AIDS takes 2-15 years to develop and yet someone can have HIV and  if treated can live a long and fairly healthy life and can even have a healthy sex life.  A woman with HIV can become pregnant and not pass the disease on to the fetus if under proper treatment.  This all means that if there is an exposure to HIV and/or a knowledge of one having HIV, that certain precautions and certain treatments are used to prevent the spread of the disease.

Since 1988 the world has set aside a specific day to stress AIDS awareness and research.  That is December 1.  It originally was chosen by the two men who “created” it–James @. Bunn and Thomas Netter, both public information offers for the Global program on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.  (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day)   As I stated at the beginning of this blog, the theme for this year is ‘Getting to Zero.”  The only way we can do that is continued education and making sure that we are not participating in “risky” behaviors.  (I’ll say more on that in another blog.)

.Surely, you didn’t think I would just give you statistics and not offer a way for you to remember this information.  I wouldn’t do that to you.  🙂  Here is a song that says more about HIV/AIDS: http://www.youtube.com/watch?NR=1&feature=endscreen&v=E2_QI3-yqJM.

For more information, go to http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/World_AIDS_Day.

Thank you, DRS (12/18/1949-11/30/199), for giving me the opportunity to share this story and to become better educated about HIV and AIDS. RIP my friend.

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