Tuesday, December 01, 2009

World AIDS Day

This morning, I discovered that today, December 1st, is World AIDS Day.

I have never known anyone who is HIV-positive or diagnosed with AIDS. However, I have been aware of the many myths spread about how you can catch AIDS.

As a teenager, I once had a boyfriend who was a few years older than me. My father was aware that this young man had "been around the block" with many girls. He warned me against kissing him, saying that the AIDS virus travels through saliva.

This is just one myth about people who have HIV or develop AIDS. You can't catch AIDS from kissing someone who has it.

Another myth I was exposed to was how swimming in the same pool as someone with AIDS was risky, because you could catch it while in the pool. (There was even a big fuss over this at a public pool.)

Yet another myth was that only homosexuals could catch AIDS. One friend of mine even commented how her boyfriend couldn't possibly have AIDS because he wasn't gay. Wrong!

Both homosexual and heterosexual people can catch AIDS. Even bisexual people can get it. AIDS does not pick and choose among race, religion, age or sexual preference.

Sadly, I once read this article about a woman in Africa who was HIV-positive and she received heavy prenatal care and assistance to help her deliver a fully healthy baby that was HIV-negative. Unfortunately, because of tradition, her family forced her to breastfeed her baby, despite doctors warning her not to do this because the virus can travel through her breast milk. She eventually gave in to their pressure to breastfeed. Sadly, her baby developed AIDS and died. (I was not only saddened by this but also infuriated. A human life is MORE important than some stupid tradition!)

Some other myths about AIDS I have heard of are:

--You can only catch AIDS from a hypodermic needle.

--Someone who is HIV-positive is the same as someone who has AIDS.

--Someone diagnosed with AIDS will definitely die from it. (A lot of progress in medicine has helped many people diagnosed with AIDS lead long and healthy lives.)

I am glad there is a World AIDS Day. It needs to be talked about and researched more openly to avoid the spread of all the myths about it.

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