Pssst… Pass it on… You Don’t Need to Pass it on!
- July 19, 2017
I have learned something today. What I have learned does not sit well with me. I have learned that the bigotry and ignorance surrounding the HIV infection is still as enormously outdated as it ever was. Sad times.
Back in the late 80s, when I was a teenager, the HIV and AIDS crisis was a hot topic. Nobody seemed to know very much at all about the origins of this ‘killer virus’, and fear spread amongst everybody. I remember at around 14 or 15 years old, going out for the day with a friend of mine. We met 2 boys a year or 2 older than us. When they tried to kiss us we ran for our lives, believing at that point that you could contract this deadly virus through saliva! And we believed this, because it’s what we’d been told; it’s what we’d been taught. I don’t know whether it was through misinformation, or whether it’s what people really believed for a while, but once awareness spread about the true facts of contraction, the ignorant haters started their campaigns of hostility and malevolence, mostly directed at the gay male community.
So it saddens me that in an age where we are supposed to stand against discrimination of any kind, that there is still such a stigma attached to HIV, and that people continue to be misinformed about the facts. HIV is not a death sentence. Having the virus does not mean you’ll die of AIDS. One blog I read today was written by a heterosexual woman; a grandmother. She contracted HIV in 2008 through unprotected sexual intercourse with her partner who was unaware that he was carrying the virus. She lives a full and healthy life because she is receiving effective HIV treatment; she is not infectious; the most you could catch from this woman is a cold! This effective treatment leaves the patient with ‘undetectable’ levels of the virus in their blood making it impossible to pass on. But still people treat her like she has the plague and they question how she came to be infected – she’s been asked if she was a sex worker or a drug addict, and in one instance she was asked by a school student if she had had sex with a monkey! Shame on him. Shame on his parents. And shame on the education system for not furnishing our young people with the facts surrounding HIV and its transmission. It’s still a globally big deal, and it astounds me that so many are still so clueless!
I had a friend who died of an AIDS related illness in the late 1990s. He was one of the kindest, most selfless men I have ever met. As a haemophiliac, he contracted HIV through infected Factor VIII which was unscreened in the early 80s. Ironically, the treatment that he thought would save his life ultimately killed him. Sadly, before the virus was ever detected in him, he had unknowingly passed it on to his wife and she died a few years before him; the cruel ripples from this sadistic twist of fate had spread far and wide. But I’m glad to say that this lovely man was never defined by his HIV status; he was just Andrew. Lovely, kind and gentle Andrew. If only there had been such pioneering treatment back then…..
So please, educate yourselves if you’re not au fait with the facts. Then educate your nearest and dearest. My child will NOT be ignorant. Will yours?
Let’s spread the word, not the stigma and hate.
My name is Jane. Pass it on!