Tuesday, June 17, 2014

AIDS (How Four Letters Changed America)

The origin of AIDS and HIV has puzzled scientists ever since the illness first came to light in the early 1980s. For over twenty years it has been the subject of fierce debate and the cause of countless arguments, with everything from a promiscuous flight attendant to a suspect vaccine programme being blamed. So what is the truth? Just where did AIDS come from?

The first recognised cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980s. I say recognized cases because gay men were dying of a mysterious, nameless illness long before there was an official diagnosis. A number of gay men in New York and California suddenly began to develop rare opportunistic infections and cancers that seemed stubbornly resistant to any treatment. At this time, AIDS did not yet have a name, but it quickly became obvious that all the men were suffering from a common syndrome.

The discovery of HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus, was made soon after. While some were initially resistant to acknowledge the connection, there is clear evidence to prove that HIV causes AIDS. 

Over the years speculation in reference to this deadly virus have run rampant. Some think of it as a gay disease, others believe that it is a drug addicts disease due to the fact that it can be easily spread through intravenous drug use, and it has been even said that Haitian immigrants brought the disease here from their home land. All of these half baked, ridiculous theories are utter nonsense. The fact of the matter is that HIV, and AIDS are not bias, and they don't discriminate.

Race, color, drug use, gender, age, sexual orientation or proclivity mean absolutely nothing, and the very notion that they do is dangerous because ignorance dramatically increases susceptibility by allowing the believer to think that they are some how immune because they do not fit the "criteria".

Basketball great Magic Johnson is a prime example of someone who defied these once prevailant stereotypes. A world famous, world class athelete who is neither gay, a drug addict, or Haitian. But was still diagnosed with the HIV in 1992. I remember being filled with dread when I heard the news. Not only because I thought that one of my heroes was dying, but also because at the time it was thought to be a death sentence. It was a poignant moment for me because I realized that if this virus could touch a superstar, then it I wasn't careful it could also touch me.

Today, the CDC estimates that 1,144,500 persons aged 13 years and older are living with HIV infection, including 180,900 (15.8%) who are unaware of their infection. Over the past decade, the number of people living with HIV has increased, while the annual number of new HIV infections has remained relatively stable. Still, the pace of new infections continues at far too high a level particularly among certain groups.

Men who have sex with other men continue to bear the greatest burden of HIV infection, and among races/ethnicities, African Americans continue to be disproportionately affected. The reasons are two fold. The first is closely related to the African-American males who have become free labor within the prison industrial complex. While African-American's in this country make up only 12% of the overall population, we make up 42% percent of the prison population. The vast majority of this 42% are men. Many of whom engage in homosexual activity while incarcerated, contract HIV, and then spread the disease through heterosexual activity once they are released from prison. The second reason for this disproportionate affect is the fact that quality health care and sexual education are not often accessible in many of the urban areas where African-American's live.

Before we judge the lives of others. We must realize that these people are somebody's mother, father, sister, brother, child, son, daughter, aunt, uncle etc. Somebody loves them as much as somebody loves you.

Since the beginning of the epidemic close to 30 mlllion people world wide have succumbed to AIDS, and while research and breakthrough medicine have allowed Magic Johnson to live 20 years with the HIV virus, he will live the rest of his life being sustained by his medication. Although he seems like a happy Billionaire every time he poses for a photo opportunity or appears on a TV program, he still bares the burden of HIV.

There is no cure!

With that being said there are evil sexual predator's out there who use the fact that they have AIDS or their HIV positive status as a weapon.

A documentary featuring a Howard University graduate student with AIDS hopes to raise awareness about the stigma of having the disease.

The documentary called "25 to Life" details how William Brawner had unprotected sex with countless women, all while knowing he was HIV positive.

"I suppressed my HIV status so much that I minimized it and because I couldn't express it, it didn't exist," Brawner said.

The documentary, produced by Yvonne Shirley and directed by Mike Brown,  follows Brawner and his decision years later to tell former girlfriends and sexual partners with whom he had unprotected sex, that he has AIDS.

Believe it or not, stories like this are not rare. There have been numerous cases of sick men and women knowingly infecting clueless individuals who chose not to use protection.

Remember. There is no cure!

The only full proof way to protect yourself from HIV and AIDS is abstinence. But if you absolutely cannot abstain, condoms are the best method of protection. Not one time. Not two times. But each, and every time. 

Sex is not worth dying for.


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