Immunity And Infection- Aids Awareness Is Critical Essay, Research Paper
Immunity and Infection: AIDS Awareness Is CriticalEvery eleven minutes, someone in this country dies of AIDS-related complications. (Silverman, 1995) By the time you finish this paper, HIV will have ended another human life, adding to the 250,000+ already dead in the United States from infection by the virus. It is estimated that up to 1.5 million Americans now have the virus, and as the number grows, the risk to everyone grows. You must know the lifesaving facts about AIDS. AIDS awareness involves knowing how the virus evolved, how it is transmitted from person to person, and how to prepare for a future with the pandemic. Until you are truly AIDS-aware, you are not going to be able to deal with what is yet to come. The tragedy of AIDS is widespread and the worst is still ahead.Despite the intense efforts of health professionals around the world, HIV infection continues to spread. In 1989, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) reported that 25,000 American college students were already infected. Worldwide, over 2 million people are believed to have AIDS; and by the year 2000, it is estimated that 40 to 120 million people will be infected with HIV. According to the World Health Organization, someone is infected with HIV every 15 to 20 seconds. (Insel, 1994) It is the leading killer of all Americans between ages twenty-five and forty-four. (Silverman, 1995) These figures are astounding when being infected by HIV is relatively difficult. Young people either don’t care about the consequences, or they don’t know how to protect themselves from being infected. Knowing the facts about HIV transmission is critical. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus lives only within cells and body fluids, not outside the body. It is transmitted by blood and blood products, semen, and vaginal secretions. The routes of HIV transmission are: 1) sexual intercourse, 2) direct exposure to infected blood (i.e. blood transfusion or I.V.drug use with contaminated blood), 3) in-vetro infection, or 4) from an HIV-positive mother to her breast-fed child. You can’t get AIDS from someone sneezing on you, nor can you be infected by HIV while sitting on a toilet seat after someone with AIDS used it.Suspicions about acquiring the illness from sharing a toilet seat or kissing an infected person created minor hysteria surrounding the disease in the 1980’s. Fear is an important element in the public response to AIDS. Underlying the fears of transmission were deeper concerns about homosexuality. AIDS threatened the heterosexual culture with homosexual contamination. In this context, homosexuality–not the virus–caused AIDS. After a generation of work to have homosexuality removed from the psychiatric diagnostic manuals as a disease, it had suddenly reappeared as an infectious, deadly killer. “Homosexuals have cried in a loud voice about getting out of the closet…They are not fagots’(sic). They are not gays.’ They are people who stick their tongues in other people’s rectums. They are people who swallow every bodily secretion man is capable of producing. They are people who indulge in such practices with an average of over a thousand partners. Take the lid off the devil’s garbage can. Label these people by exactly what they do, and you clear up the mystery of what is responsible for most cases of AIDS.” (Adams, 1988.)The suspicion that homosexuality was the cause of AIDS is a characteristic position in the history of the disease. Unfortunately, not much has changed by 1995. On the morning of New Year’s Day 1995, 40 San Francisco police officers “stormed the premises” of an AIDS benefit for artists living with HIV, and proceeded with “physical brutality; unwarranted and illegal arrests, search, and seizure.” According to the lawsuit filed, the officers present at the scene repeatedly used anti-gay epithets during the arrests, and made biased comments about people with HIV and AIDS. A photographer taking pictures of the intervention was knocked down, stepped on in the face, forced to surrender the camera and arrested. She was released on bail, and the camera was returned….without the film. The officers lied about the way they reported the incident, and violated California laws preventing hate crimes based on sexual orientation and HIV status. The investigation was concluded in mid-August, and the Police Commission has failed to hold disciplinary hearings against the officers as of November 2. It is believed that the hearings are postponed because of the city’s election later this month.Bureaucracy surrounding AIDS is appalling. No one can deny that if AIDS cases first appeared in young, white, married couples who did not inject drugs, treatment and prevention efforts at the government level would have evolved much more quickly. AIDS was unique. It touched nerves that polarized Americans: sex, homosexuality, Christian family values, drug addiction, and personal versus collective rights. It gave conservative moralists the much awaited “divine solution” to human decay and unholiness. Patrick Buchanan, conservative columnist and former Reagan speech writer explained, “The poor homosexuals–they have declared war upon Nature, and now Nature is exacting an awful retribution…let Nature take its course.” (Petrow, 1990) This position, that gays get what they deserve, that to investigate treatment would merely encourage “unhealthy” behavior, is the most tragic viewpoint in the twentieth century. Because the people in power underestimated the magnitude of the coming plague and decided instead to argue ethics, millions of innocent human beings are now infected with the deadly virus. Influential men like Patrick Buchanan and the Good Reverend Moody Adams came to the “divine” conclusion that AIDS awareness would be promoting homosexuality and other “sinful” behavior.Claiming that homosexuality was the cause of AIDS is ridiculous. Homosexual behavior goes back to the earliest of recorded history. Why would the virus, or God, wait several centuries to start killing the sinners? The claim also ignores that homosexual women are least at risk of contracting the virus. Blaming individuals who have acquired HIV because of their addictions, stupidity, or lifestyle benefits no one. It indicates a remarkably uninformed view of the epidemic, as well as complete disregard for the public health. Locating the actual origin of the disease is a daunting task. Blood samples from specimens as early as 1959 (gender unknown) test positive for antibodies to HIV. (Garrett, 1994) Many scientists believe that HIV was responsible for certain unknown deaths prior to the virus’s discovery in the 1980’s. Due to toxic environmental issues, the setting was now appropriate for a virus to emerge that damaged the human body’s only mode of defense against contamination…….the immune system. It is only because of the method of transmission that HIV infection first emerged in a handful of homosexual males. HIV is more likely to be transmitted by unprotected anal intercourse than by other sexual activities, so the earliest “documented” cases of the new immunodeficiency disease which we now call AIDS appeared in sexually active homosexual males. It wasn’t until August of 1982 that the CDC quietly dropped the term GRID, or Gay-Related Immunodeficiency Disease, and changed the name of the disease to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
As of November 10, 1995, there is no known cure for AIDS. However, it is a preventable disease. HIV prevention is an imperative topic to be discussed in every junior high, every high school, and every college throughout the country. People are still having unsafe sex. Surveys of college students indicate the majority are not engaging in safer sex, and many still believe their risk of contracting HIV depends on “who they are” rather than on their sexual behavior. Educating children about “safe sex” as opposed to what someone else believes is the “right kind of sex” may save millions of lives. HIV does not discriminate like humans. Explaining to young people that sex does not have to involve the exchange of body fluid; that fantasizing, hugging, massage, rubbing bodies together, phone sex, and mutual masturbation are all 100% safe. Boys must be told that activities like anal, oral, or vaginal intercourse are unsafe and condoms with a spermicide containing nonoxynol-9 should ALWAYS be worn to reduce the risk of infection. Cunnilingus and anilingus should be done with a dental dam. It must also be made clear that if people want to inject drugs into their bodies, sharing needles, syringes, or anything that might have blood on it are easy ways to transmit the virus and should be avoided. Avoiding drugs and intercourse altogether is the “safest” lifestyle, but many people are going to experiment regardless of the health risk. Understanding that fact is necessary to develop the appropriate intervention that will be effective instead of invasive.It is difficult to envision young individuals exploring non-penetrative sexual expression or negotiating condom use when issues involving sexual alternatives like masturbation are not discussed in schools. For individuals and societies to pursue HIV prevention as vigorously and honestly as they should, the environment must be understood to be transformed. Individuals must be aware of HIV infection and AIDS, they must be made aware of “safe” behavioral alternatives, they must recognize the problem this virus presents to themselves and to society, and they must be motivated to acquire the skills to do something about it. AIDS is going to effect directly or indirectly the life of everyone on the planet. It is time to put an end to the bigotry surrounding AIDS and realize that fellow human beings, regardless of sexual preference, are dying from the disease every day. HIV-positive individuals need compassionate help and services. They need information and resources not only to care for themselves, but also to prevent further spread of HIV. The false notion that AIDS is a “fag” disease must be changed. 71% of HIV infection worldwide happens through heterosexual contact. (Core Concepts in Health, p. 470, 1994.)The head of the World Health Organization understands the magnitude of the AIDS pandemic and made the following statement just seven years ago when the number of reported AIDS cases reached 50,000: “I don’t know of any greater killer than AIDS, not to speak of its psychological, social and economic maiming…Everything is getting worse and worse in AIDS and all of us have been underestimating it, and I in particular…I definitely admit to a gross underestimate.” (Panem, 1988) Perhaps there will never be a vaccine to HIV or a cure for AIDS. It is clearly the most important public health problem of current times, and some believe may be the most important public health problem in history. The daunting projections of the human and economic toll that will occur without scientific, medical, and social policy advances are astounding and quite grim. The spread of HIV is occurring exponentially since discovery 14 years ago. Clearly, AIDS-awareness is critical if the human race is to survive the battle against HIV.BibliographyAdams, Reverend Moody. AIDS: You Just Think You’re Safe. 1988. Conkin, Dennis. New Year’s Raid of AIDS Fundraiser Prompts Lawsuit. Bay Area Reporter, Vol. XXV No. 42 November 2, 1995. Garrett, Laurie. The Coming Plague. New York, NY: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1994. Insel, Paul M. Core Concepts in Health. Mountain View, CA: Mayfield Publishing Company,1994. Mack, Arien. In Time of Plague. New York, NY: New York University Press, 1991. Muir, Marie. The Environmental Contexts of AIDS. New York, NY: Praeger Publishers, 1991. Panem, Sandra. The AIDS Bureaucracy. Cambridge, MA: Harvard University Press, 1988. Patton, Cindy. Sex & Germs-The Politics of AIDS. Boston, MA: South End Press, 1985. Petrow, Steven. Dancing Against the Darkness. Lexington, MA: Lexington Books, 1990. Silverman, Mervyn. American Foundation for AIDS Research newsletter. 1995. ————————————————————————Write to theauthorSWIMININSF@aol.com