Thursday, December 1, 2011

Today is Bloggers Unite - World-Aids-Day

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

The first recognized cases of AIDS occurred in the USA in the early 1980’s. A number of 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 dominant feature of this first period was silence, for the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) was unknown and transmission was not yet understood. By 1980, HIV had spread to at least five continents (North America, South America, Europe, Africa and Australia). During this period of silence, the spread was unchecked by awareness or any preventive action and approximately 100,000-300,000 persons may have been infected.

In June 1981 the Center for Disease Control (CDC) published a report about the occurrence, without identifiable cause, of rare lung infection Pneumocystis carinii pneumonia (PCP) in five men in Los Angeles. This report is sometimes referred to as the "beginning" of AIDS, but it might be more accurate to describe it as the beginning of the general awareness of AIDS in the USA

Because there was so little known about the transmission of what seemed to be a new disease, there was concern about contagion, and whether the disease could by passed on by people who had no apparent signs or symptoms.

In 1982 we had a family friend who was diagnosed with AIDS. At that time it was a very new disease and no one knew what it was or how you got it, however, it was rumored was that it was a definite death sentence.

Norman was an entertainer, a dancer who also belonged to a local singing group. He was gentle and kind and a lifelong friend to several people. When he was diagnosed he was told that he was going to die and his mother opted to take him to her home. At that time it was an enormous secret if a person had AIDS because no one knew if it was an airborne disease or not. We, his friends, had several discussions about just how supportive we could be without putting ourselves, and our families at risk.

Norman’s birthday was approaching and one of our group, Bernard, insisted that we should give Norman a surprise birthday party. We wanted to go to visit him but we were still cautious. We tried to find out everything that had been printed about the illness. Well we discovered that it was not airborne and that we could not get AIDS from being in Norman’s presence. Bernard purchased a beautiful birthday cake and we purchased paper plates and napkins along with plastic forks and spoons. We knocked on his mother’s door and enthusiastically announced our arrival by singing “Happy Birthday To You”. He was so frail and weak but he managed a giant smile and we spent the afternoon with him. The men who were members of his singing group serenaded him with songs and even did a few dance steps. It is still a ‘happy memory’ day.

The acronym AIDS was suggested at a July meeting in Washington, D.C., AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) was first properly defined by the CDC in September 1982, and they published their first set of recommended precautions for health-care workers and allied professionals designed to prevent AIDS transmission.

Still very little was known about transmission and public anxiety continued to grow.

In 1983 it was reported that the cause of AIDS was unknown, but it seemed most likely to be caused by an agent transmitted by intimate sexual contact, through contaminated needles, or, less commonly, by inoculation of infectious blood or blood products. No evidence suggested transmission of AIDS by airborne spread.

In October, the first European World Health Organization (WHO) meeting was held in Denmark. At the meeting it was reported that there had been 2,803 AIDS cases in the USA. By the end of the year the number of AIDS cases in the USA had risen to 3,064 and of these 1,292 had died. Our friend Norman was included in the list of persons who died in 1983.

Our friendship with Norman led me to become an advocate for people living with HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus)/AIDS. I started a support group for teenage children whose parents had died from, or were currently living with, AIDS. These young people could not talk about it to their school friends and were stigmatized by society. The peer group gave them an opportunity to talk it over with some other young people.

The story I related to you happened 29 years ago and I am sorry to say that there is still an enormous stigma that is born by people who are infected or affected with HIV/AIDS. The statistics today are heavy and many people remain ignorant of the disease.

The death toll since the epidemic began in the early 1980s has reached 22 million, including at least 4.3 million children. More than 36 million people worldwide are now living with HIV/AIDS and every month an additional 440,000 people become infected. Approximately 95% of AIDS cases are in the developing world.

HIV/AIDS rivals poverty and war as a threat to the lives of millions of children in the developing world. There are many worthy organizations worldwide that are working towards a cure. I recommend that you to look them up online and see if you can help in some way.

I urge you to learn more about this disease and at the very least, give a person living with HIV/AIDS a smile and a hug. Yes, human contact is important to let a person know that you care.

I have lived in different countries around the world where I learned that education and medications for HIV/AIDS are not available to everyone for a variety of reasons.

This year, on World AIDS Day is is important to support universal access and human rights. Access for all to learn about prevention, treatment, care, and support is key to conquering HIV/AIDS, and is a fundamental human right.

Wont you give it some thought and then make a decision about how you can help in some small way? Please!


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