Every year on World AIDS day I cannot help but think about a dear friend of mine. Many, many years ago, in the country of my birth, he was a colleague. Before I left there, it was never spoken about whether he was gay or not. He was one of our colleagues, and a dear one too. I cannot tell you how many times, during our working days, a nice song would play on the radio and he would grab me and we would dance through the office. And so many times the dance ended with him lifting me right on top of a filing cabinet. One of those with four drawers. Then he would sit down at his desk and wait for me to find a way to get down again. He was full of fun and laughter and life… and he was already dying.
You see, I met him back in 1989 and he was diagnosed HIV positive in 1985. He was one of the first to be diagnosed back then. None of us knew. He kept it from all of us until he got gravely ill in 1996. By then I was already living over here. No one thought he would survive in 1996, but he did. In 1998 he visited me over here for three weeks, as a surprise. Just one week after he arrived, he got ill. Violently ill. I took him to my doctor and he was transported from the doctor’s office to hospital by ambulance. He was in hospital for a month. They had to stop his meds, because back then all AIDS medication had alcohol as an ingredient. His pancreas couldn’t handle the alcohol anymore. The meds were literally killing him. When he went back home after being with me for 7 weeks, he hoped his doctors there would find him new meds. They didn’t.
I will continue the story, but I first want to concentrate on the Top 10 Myths and Misconceptions About HIV and AIDS
Myth No. 1: I can get HIV by being around people who are HIV-positive.
The evidence shows that HIV is not spread through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva. You cannot catch HIV by:
Breathing the same air as someone who is HIV-positive
Touching a toilet seat or doorknob handle after an HIV-positive person
Drinking from a water fountain
Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with someone who is HIV-positive
Sharing eating utensils with an HIV-positive person
Using exercise equipment at a gym
You can get it from infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or mother’s milk.
Myth No. 2: I don’t need to worry about becoming HIV positive — new drugs will keep me well.
Yes, antiretroviral drugs are improving and extending the lives of many people who are HIV-positive. However, many of these drugs are expensive and produce serious side effects. None yet provides a cure. Also, drug-resistant strains of HIV make treatment an increasing challenge.
Myth No. 3: I can get HIV from mosquitoes.
Because HIV is spread through blood, people have worried that biting or bloodsucking insects might spread HIV. Several studies, however, show no evidence to support this — even in areas with lots of mosquitoes and cases of HIV. When insects bite, they do not inject the blood of the person or animal they have last bitten. Also, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect.
Myth No. 4: I’m HIV-positive — my life is over.
In the early years of the disease epidemic, the death rate from AIDS was extremely high. But today, antiretroviral drugs allow HIV-positive people — and even those with AIDS — to live much longer, normal, and productive lives.
Myth No. 5: AIDS is genocide.
In one study, as many as 30% of African-Americans and Latinos expressed the view that HIV was a government conspiracy to kill minorities. Instead, higher rates of infection in these populations may be due, in part, to a lower level of health care.
Myth No. 6: I’m straight and don’t use IV drugs — I won’t become HIV-positive.
Most men do become HIV-positive through sexual contact with other men. However, about 16% of men and 78% of women become HIV-positive through heterosexual contact.
Myth No. 7: If I’m receiving treatment, I can’t spread the HIV virus.
When HIV treatments work well, they can reduce the amount of virus in your blood to a level so low that it doesn’t show up in blood tests. Research shows, however, that the virus is still “hiding” in other areas of the body. It is still essential to practice safe sex so you won’t make someone else become HIV-positive.
Myth No. 8: My partner and I are both HIV positive — there’s no reason for us to practice safer sex.
Practicing safer sex — wearing condoms or using dental dams — can protect you both from becoming exposed to other (potentially drug resistant) strains of HIV.
Myth No. 9: I could tell if my partner was HIV-positive.
You can be HIV-positive and not have any symptoms for years. The only way for you or your partner to know if you’re HIV-positive is to get tested.
Myth No. 10: You can’t get HIV from oral sex.
It’s true that oral sex is less risky than some other types of sex. But you can get HIV by having oral sex with either a man or a woman who is HIV-positive. Always use a latex barrier during oral sex.
We went to visit my friend in May of 1999. He seemed to be doing okay, but we all knew how sick he was. He took us to all his special places. All the places he had always loved to go to. He wanted to show us all those places, and tell his stories about those places. We were there for two weeks and left on a Sunday. Exactly 6 weeks after we left, on 1 August 1999, he died of AIDS.
© Rebel’s Notes
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