November 27, 2006
December 1 is World AIDS
"Nearly 40 million
adults and children are infected worldwide. ... Somebody is infected
with the HIV virus every 8 seconds, equivalent to 11,000 infections
worldwide every day, while another 8,000 infected people die, the
two agencies [UNAIDS and the World Health Organization] said in
a joint annual report '2006 AIDS Epidemic Update.' "
Many people in the United
States think of AIDS as a disease that affects people in other countries;
but in just one recent year (2003), there were 43,171 new AIDS cases
reported in the United States, with over 18,000 people dieing of
the disease that same year.
AIDS is not in the news
in the United States as much as it once was. Teens and young adults
in 2006 were not alive (or were too young to remember) when the
"More than 20 years
ago, doctors in the United States identified the first cases of
AIDS in San Francisco and New York. ... AIDS is caused by the human
immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV destroys a type of defense cell
in the body called a CD4 helper lymphocyte (pronounced: lim-fuh-site).
These lymphocytes are part of the body's immune system, the defense
system that fights infectious diseases. But as HIV destroys these
lymphocytes, people with the virus begin to get serious infections
that they normally wouldn't -- that is, they become immune deficient.
The name for this condition is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome
There is no cure for HIV
or AIDS. There is only prevention.
"The only known way
for the HIV virus to be transmitted from one person to another is
when it is spread from the inside of an infected person's body to
the inside of another person's body. This can happen when infected
fluids ... are passed from one person to another. A person can become
infected even if only tiny amounts of these fluids are spread."
If a friend, classmate,
or family member has HIV you need to be careful of open wounds,
but not casual contact.
"You can't get HIV
from hugging or holding hands or from other casual contact. HIV
is not spread through sneezes or coughs, and you can't catch it
from sitting near someone who has it. Mosquitoes and other bugs
don't carry the virus."
It is generally a good
idea to use the same level of care when interacting with all people
as you would if you knew someone had HIV/ AIDS.
"Asking people if
they have HIV is not a reliable way of finding out whether they
are infected. People may not answer truthfully. They may be embarrassed
to tell you or may not want you to know. Or they may not even know
they have the virus because it can take many years for symptoms
to develop. An infected person will look healthy for many years
and can still spread the virus. The most certain way of preventing
HIV infection is by not having sex (abstinence) and by not sharing
needles to do drugs."
Even if a close friend
gets a cut, use gloves and avoiding all contact with the blood.
This will not only help prevent exposure to HIV/ AIDS, it will also
help prevent the spread of other diseases such as Hepatitis.
If a person is uncomfortable
putting on gloves because it might hurt their friend's feelings....
Not only do gloves protect the person providing medical care from
contact with the blood, they also reduce the chances of exposing
the open wound to bacteria that may be on the hands of the caregiver.
Even if someone assures
you that they don't have AIDS, it is still important to be careful.
"[A]n estimated one-third of those who are HIV positive do
not know it."
The only way to know for
sure is to be tested.
"Through Dec. 31 ,
health departments in all 55 counties of West Virginia will offer
free HIV tests to patients who visit for STD tests or treatment.
The campaign coincides with CDC's new recommendation to routinely
offer HIV tests to all people ages 13-64 in clinical settings, said
Dr. Loretta Haddy, the state's epidemiologist. ... Results from
the blood tests are returned within seven to 10 days, she added.
The state will assess data from the two-month campaign to see whether
it should continue, Haddy said, noting that the testing will provide
a better picture of HIV/AIDS in West Virginia."
It is better to be safe
than sorry. If anyone (even a teacher) asks you to do something
that you don't think is safe, you have the right to say no and talk
with another trusted adult.
"Nearly two dozen
students at a middle school in Redwood City will have to undergo
blood tests Tuesday for Hepatitis and the AIDS virus because of
a science experiment that should never have taken place. ... A substitute
teacher let kids use the same needle to pierce their fingers to
draw blood to look at it under a microscope. They should have swabbed
their mouths [with a clean toothpick] instead. This is the device
students used to prick their fingers and draw blood. It's called
a lancet. The needle instrument was used during all six periods
of a 7th grade science lab. The principal at Kennedy Middle School
in Redwood City says as many as 20 students shared only a few needles."
Questions of the Week:
What can you do to help prevent the further spread of HIV/ AIDS
in your community? What can you do to protect yourself from becoming
infected? How can you know if a friend, significant other, classmate,
stranger, or family member is infected? Why should you (or should
you not) have access to this information? Who should have an HIV
test? How do you know if you should have an HIV test?
Please email me with any ideas or suggestions.
Note: Due to increasing amounts of SPAM sent to this account, please include "QOW" in the subject line when sending me email.
I look forward to reading
what you have to say.
Health Community Coordinator
Access Excellence @ the National Health Museum