Ignorance Is Not Bliss
by Brittany Pulce
There is a virus that more than a million people become diagnosed with and kills more than half of those people annually in the United States alone. AIDS is an epidemic that has killed more than twenty-five million people worldwide since 1981. It was this epidemic that took both of my parents from me before I was even ten years old. While growing up, I was completely unaware of my parent’s condition. However, I always noticed how often my parents got sick and ended up in the hospital. It wasn’t until my early teens, that I was told about AIDS and was told how about how that’s what always made my parents ill. Since then, at every chance I get, I feel the need to let others know that even the people closest to you may have AIDS and you may never know it. It is for this reason that I am very close and familiar with this virus and feel as thought everybody needs to know the facts. Not only know the facts, but also, know how to use those facts to protect themselves from possible infection. Understanding how AIDS is transmitted and being able to protect yourself and others from coming into contact with it by practicing safe sex behaviors are some of the things I hope to promote. As well as, offering reasons as to why sex education should be taught in more schools. Also, address why abstinence shouldn’t be taught as the only form of AIDS prevention for the reason that, it is unrealistic.
Imagine having a flu that your immune system wasn’t able to get rid of. Well, a little over thirty-three million people don’t need to imagine it because they have to live with it. In a way, that is what the Human Immunodeficiency Virus is, better known as HIV. This virus can be considered a lot like other viruses, including those that cause the flu. However, unlike the common cold, your immune system cannot fight off HIV. While HIV goes undetected, it attacks a vital part of your immune system that is needed to fight off infections and disease, your T-cells. As HIV continually destroys your T-cells, it eventually develops into AIDS. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and as you break the words down you gain a better understanding of what AIDS does. According to aids.org “acquired means you acquire it after birth; Immune Deficiency, which means a weakness in the body’s system the fights diseases and Syndrome which refers to a group of health problem that make up a disease.” Because HIV has depleted your immune system, people who have AIDS are very susceptible to many opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections can range anywhere from, fevers, swollen lymph glands, chills, dramatic weight loss and sweats. These can be signs and symptoms that something is wrong. However, there are those who do not experience any symptoms at all. This can lead to an increase in the number of AIDS diagnoses if they continue to be sexually active while remaining unaware of their health.
There is no cure for AIDS; once you become infected, you have it for life. Anyone can become infected, as some might say, “AIDS doesn’t discriminate.” AIDS can be transmitted through specific human body fluids such as blood, semen, breast milk, or vaginal fluids. Some might wonder how you would come into contact with these bodily fluids. By sexual contact, sharing a needle, blood transfusion, pregnancy, childbirth, and even breastfeeding, Contrary to what some people believe you cannot become infected with HIV/AIDS through feces, saliva, urine or vomit, unless it has blood mixed in with it that you come into direct contact with it. Also, AIDS isn’t more prone to only affect the homosexual community or drug users who inject the drug into their veins. Back when AIDS was first detected many people believed these myths, which lead to people who were diagnosed to feel like outcasts. However, much has changed since then and now those who have been diagnosed are given treatment and are able to live their lives. The treatment these people receive is the only way they are able to live longer. The most common treatment is known as antiretroviral drug treatment. This treatment suppresses the replication of HIV in the body, which in turn allows the patient to avoid becoming ill for many years. This drug needs to be taken every day for rest of the patient’s life. With that in mind, knowing ways to prevent possibly becoming infected is important.
Sometimes knowing all about HIV/AIDS and what it is capable of isn’t enough to prevent becoming infected with it. Being informed about the facts is only the first part, acting on the information and making a difference in your life, as well as, in others life is the other part. Practicing safe sex behaviors such as, reducing promiscuity and using condoms are ways to actively prevent becoming infected. Spreading the word and educating friends and family members about doing the same is another way to prevent the spread of AIDS. Along with educating friends and family member, implementing sex education classes in high school could prove to be effective. Within these classes students would be able to ask to their teacher about any questions they may have. This would avoid false information from being passed around. These classes could have speakers come in who are living their life with AIDS or any other disease, virus, or STD. They could offer insight on how to avoid making the same mistakes they made, which might help the younger generation look at what they are being taught from a different perspective. Some might ask, what would be the point of doing what I am proposing? The fact is, there are many reasons the take into consideration what I am asking. Firstly, according to avet.org, “one in every five people living with HIV has not even had their infections diagnosed.” This statistic alone proves that people are unaware how easily AIDS can spread from person to person. If they were aware they would get tested which would result in the spread of AIDS decreasing due to the fact they now know they are unable to continue to be sexually active. Secondly, if the number of AIDS diagnoses decreases, the number of children losing their parents to this epidemic would decrease and vice versa. So lead by example and live a sexually healthy lifestyle and then promote the lifestyle you live so that others begin to follow.
Although, many might argue that reducing promiscuity and using condoms are an excellent way to reduce your risk of contracting AIDS, these same people also believe the only way to prevent spreading AIDS is through abstinence. So instead of informing young children about safe sex procedures and how they significantly reduce your risk of getting AIDS, they believe the only form of protection that should be taught to young children is abstinence. It is these people who fight to keep sex education classes out of schools. The problem with that is both children and adults have a curiosity about sex, so only promoting abstinence wouldn’t work when their “in the spur of the moment.” As stated earlier, sex education classes could offer an answer on how someone who is in that predicament should react in a responsible manner. Knowing how to protect yourself in the bedroom when abstinence is not longer what you wish to do is important. The guest speakers from the sex education classes could offers solutions on how to get out of that heated moment or on how to be safe during that moment. So, even though abstinence is one way to prevent AIDS, it is also unrealistic in some ways. Instead teaching young adults the importance of safe sex and the importance of getting tested if they do become promiscuous seems more realistic in today’s society.
I was never able to ask my parents how they acquired AIDS and I never will be able to. I was left with many unanswered questions that could have been helpful in my quest to inform others about AIDS. Despite my unanswered questions I am still able to share what I know which may help parents be able to continue to be around for the children and vice versa. Children shouldn’t have to learn about AIDS or any other virus from the streets, they should be able to get the truthful facts from either their parents or a sex education teacher. Allowing schools to teach sex education could help decrease the number of people being diagnosed with AIDS. By living a life that’s sexually healthy and free of drugs is only the beginning. Sharing how you live your life with others and educating them on why you have chosen to live your life this way is the second step to combating this epidemic. Not only that, we live in a constantly changing world and its time some people same change with it. I say this to say that, sex education that only teaches children about abstinence is old school and it needs to change. It’s time that children learn safe sex behaviors along with learning the importance of it. The younger generation needs to feel comfortable enough to come forward with any questions they may have about sexually transmitted disease and I feel that sex education class is a place for them to do all of these things and more. I never had sex education class while in school and was never taught about safe sex behaviors at home. I picked information up off the internet and by listening to what other people told me not knowing if what I was learning was true. This uncertainty in my life could have been avoided if someone took the time out of their day to educate me on the facts. It is for this reason that I challenge my community to push for sex education classes in their schools, as well as, teach their children, family and friends about what AIDS is capable of and that it is not to be messed with.
TAC (Treatment Action Campaign): The State of AIDS Activism in South Africa
by Monica Seymore
TAC (Treatment Action Campaign) is a South African AIDS activist organization that was founded by an HIV-positive activist name Zackie Achmate 10 December 1998 in Cape Town, South Africa on International Human Rights Day. The founder Zackie Achmat whom the New York calls “The most important dissident in country since Nelson Mandela”. Ten other activist joined the group as well as gay rights activist Simon Nkoli who later died from AIDS because if the highly active antiretroviral therapy was only available to wealthy South Africans. The advocates for increased access to treatment, care and support services for people living with HIV and campaigns to reduce new HIV infections.
TAC has more than 16,000 members, with 267 branches and 72 full time staff members, TAC is the leading civil society forced behind comprehensive health care services for people living with HIV/AIDS in South Africa. Since 1998, the government has been held accountable for the health care services delivery;
TAC has taken on many efforts in life-saving interventions, including the implementation of country-wide mother-to-child transmission prevention and antiretroviral treatment programs. TAC had begun a campaign for universal access to AIDS treatment through the public health system. The group decided to confront the government on this issue at a national congress in 2002. February 2003 the group marched on Parliament and began a civil disobedience campaign in March 2003. By the summer of 2003, TAC had obtained a leak that was internally-circulated a government report showing that treatment would be cost-effective by reducing costly hospitalizations. At the next annual congress in August 2003, TAC voted to resume civil disobedience. (TAC had also voted that Achmat take his own medications for HIV/AIDS).
During this time frame TAC began a treatment project to distribute medications to its activist and other community members. On the dates of August 13 – 18 2006, in Toronto at the XV11 International AIDS Society Conference, TAC had a significant presence. There was many TAC staff presented in the
TAC had declared a Global Day of action for Thursday, August 24, 2006. The protest and marches were held in Canada, Brazil, the U.S., and China by TAC supporters and sympathizers. TAC has received world-wide acclaim and plenty international accolades, which included a nomination for a Nobel Peace Prize in 2004. The New York Times named TAC, “The world’s most effective AIDS group” on August 30, 2006. TAC is still continuing to work on antiviral drugs for HIV/AIDS patients.
TAC has three core programs that consist of: (1) PTL (Prevention and Treatment Literacy) which provides high quality training and public health education on the science of HIV and TB prevention and treatment to patients and partner organizations. (2) CHA (Community Health Advocacy), this group strengthens awareness of the advocates for great access to comprehensive HIV and TB prevention, treatment, care and support services, including social referral services at a grass-roots community level. (3) PCR (Policy Communications, and Research) is the department that is responsible for monitoring and engaging with
Sylvia Flynn who is a TAC trainee journalist interviewed someone about her contact with TB. The person that was interviewed went by the initials FM:
FM: “She struggled with TB when it attacked her in 2003. Her father had been sick with the disease in the same year. She found the side-effects of the TB medications unbearable and eventually defaulted. She believes the reason for this was because she could not access the disability grant or healthy food. Consequently she was re-infected and had to have streptomycin injections and took treatment for eight months. Despite this, her grant ended two months before her treatment stopped. The disability grant is provided for only six months, irrespective of the treatment time of an individual patient”.
On April 1, 2010, South Africa adopted new guidelines for the clinical management of HIV/AIDS. On this date these were the following documents published by South African National Aids Council (SANAC): (1) Clinical
guidelines for the management of HIV/AIDS in adults and adolescents 2010. (2) Clinical guidelines: PMTCT (Prevention of mother to child transmission guidelines) 2010. (3) Guidelines for the management of HIV in children 2010.
After reading the TAC movement I felt very sad because I was not able to understand how the government could just turn people in need away from something that could or prevent them from a deadly disease (HIV/AIDS), it’s as if the government want the people to die. I feel that getting an organization together like TAC with plenty of strong people was the best thing that could have happened for the people of South Africa. I was also pleased that plenty of people participated and supported the organization to get what they had been fighting for and continuing to fight. After reading all the information on TAC and the organization I ended up with a smile because they are a strong organization that is fighting to the end to get what they need.
My reaction to the TAC movement was joyful. The group worked hard to get their point across for what they wanted. I had their idea of a strong activist group. My reactions started off bitter but ended up with a smile because the energy and drive that the activist have within them to get their point across about HIV/AIDS.