Once upon a time there was a world without HIV/AIDS. Ask those who live with it daily; provide medical care to a patient, sit by the bed of a loved one, search for a cure, or grieve over the loss of a friend, lover, or family member - and they'll tell you it's hard to remember the time "before". Three decades have passed with this virus bringing pain and suffering to our planet, whether it is one individual or entire generations, it has been deadly!
My introduction to working in this field came through my years as a Health & Safety Educator for the American Red Cross. I remember clearly the day my Chapter Director told me "there is this new disease; it has something to do with blood. Are you willing to go to a workshop and learn about it?" Well, I did, and here I am thirty years later.
Yup, it is a disease spread via blood, the blood and infectious body fluids of an infected person. How did someone get infected? Well, after much research and investigation we knew it was through unprotected sex with an infected person through vaginal, anal, or oral sex (semen & vaginal fluids). Also by sharing contaminated needles and syringes when injecting drugs (blood), and an infected Mother could transmit the virus to her baby during pregnancy; at birth or even through her breast milk because the virus was found in breast milk of infected mothers (breast milk).
It is not spread through casual contact, it is bloodborne not airborne. So it can't be coughed on you, it isn't spread on toilet seats or by drinking or eating after someone who is infected. But sadly, fear, misinformation, stigma and discrimination related to HIV/AIDS continues to this day. It's been 30 years folks, get educated, get tested, know your status and that of your sexual and drug using partners! Enough is enough already! I'm not going to let you off easy on that one; we are going to talk about it!
I want us to learn all we can about this infection, talk about it, think on it, dwell on it, chew on it in our mind and then I want my community to PREVENT it. Yes, I don't want another darn person in our community to become infected, cause we know how to stop it! And yet it continues to take our sons, daughters, uncles, mothers, brothers and on and on and on.
Over the next few posts I want to share with you some links and websites so that if you are interested you can learn more and share the information. And don't tell me this doesn't affect you because it does. The toll on our country is significant and it is especially so in the Southern states where the epidemic is at crisis level. So here is your homework...(just kidding) but please hang with me and let's make a difference by at least knowing the facts and how we can make a difference in our community.
Sites to check out:
www.cdc.gov (The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) go to the HIV or AIDS pages, lots of great resources and fact sheets)
www.adph.org (Alabama Department of Public Health, go to the H page for HIV, or the A page for AIDS, find out what the statistics are for your county, and what our State health departments are doing to fight HIV in Alabama)
www.samhsa.gov (The Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, they provide funding for the substance abuse programs at the Health Services Center and are the premier provider of substance abuse and addiction/recovery information in the U.S.)
www.nmac.org (The National Minority AIDS Council, a national organization focused on HIV/AIDS in minority populations)
www.southernaidscoalition.org (The Southern AIDS Coalition, get the perspective and information for the Southern States from the experts; HIV professionals, persons living with HIV, advocates, and those of us who live and work in the South, and care about the South)
Okay, that's it for today. I'm in this for the long haul, as my truck driver Dad used to say, so come back and join me on this journey. My grandson has assigned a picture for me when I call his cell phone the picture that comes up on his screen to tell him his Nanny is calling...a Trojan condom! So you are "safe" with me. Leave me a comment if you have questions or concerns, I'm all about some conversation.
"Sex, Drugs, & Rock n Roll"?? I've been told that's what I speak about most often, but I plan to chat with you about much more than that as we get acquainted. As a long time HIV/AIDS and substance abuse prevention educator I do tend to spend my working hours talking about risky behaviors, body parts, sores and symptoms, condoms and needles, and lots of other cringe-worthy topics.
With over 56,000 new HIV infections occurring each year in the U.S, too many of them in the South - it is definitely a topic we need to discuss, the "silence" is killing people! When you add addiction and substance abuse to the mix we have the rocket fuel for disaster for people of all ages. I hope to share with you the signposts to a road map that will help us find our way through this thing called HIV/AIDS, and perhaps we can increase awareness in our community, help ourselves and our loved ones who struggle with drug and alcohol abuse and risky sexual behaviors. Maybe we can all find the courage to speak out about "taboo" topics and find effective methods to make our community safer and healthier.
I like to laugh, I cry over sappy commercials, I'm a sucker when my grandsons ask for electronics or anything that lights up, I love my hubby of 42 years for putting up with a wife who always has anatomical penis and vagina models and condoms in the back seat of her car, and I'm looking forward to getting to know you too. Please come back, we'll have fun!