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Tuesday, December 1, 2009

World AIDS Day

Today was World AIDS Day, and I am shamefully late with this post. I'll spare you the explanation, because it is totally devoid of any entertainment value.... Instead, I'm gonna repost something I wrote a while back, because it still says what I wanna say about HIV/AIDS.

As usual though, I want to take this opportunity to urge everyone to KNOW YOUR STATUS!!
I don't care what you think, HIV is world wide, yes, even here in the Cornfield. Just like with so many other things, knowledge is power!

Originally posted 3-2-09

I was enduring a long and boring day of orientation for a new/old job today, and as my mind is prone to do, it wandered. It was wandering in the direction of trying to come up with a blog topic. I haven't posted for a while, so it's about time I got off my duff and did something about it.

**side note: if you work with me, no, I'm not leaving. I just caved into the pressure from a couple of people and am picking up an ER shift or two a month at another hospital. If you don't work with me, you probably don't give a dang that I picked up a "spare job."**

Anyway, as I sat there with my mind meandering, beginning to despair of my totally idea free inspiration zone, my phone buzzed. I checked it at the next break, and it was Luvvie's blog post on my email. Of course I read it immediately. What better cure for interminable boredom than that? Leopard print leggings....oh my damn! But it wasn't the leggings that got me, it was the public service announcement about the upcoming National Women and Girls HIV/AIDS Awareness Day on March 10 and the RED PUMP PROJECT. In this PSA there is inspiration to write about what I know......

I'm a nurse, and one of the hats I wear at my "real job" is Infection Control and Prevention. I'm a card carrying member of the Southern Illinois Chapter of APIC (Association of Practioners of Infection Control). This is the most active and influential professional association of it's kind. ( I admit to being a microbiology geek. Deal with it, I have.) They write standards of care for every situation you can imagine based on Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) guidelines. Infectious disease is something that gets me riled up. So here goes my rant on HIV/AIDS.

In the years since HIV/AIDS first landed on the world with both feet, there has been a continuum of response ranging from no reaction to over reaction, ignorance and ignoring to fear and alienation, and just about everything in between. I remember at one time feeling safe and isolated from the big bad bug because I lived in the middle of a cornfield in the middle of the country, and this was a Big City, fringe of the nation, fringe of society problem. And at that time, that was the message we were getting from the media. I was in maybe 8th or 9th grade at the time, it was the early 80's and AIDS was a "gay men's" problem. Then more information came out, the bug crossed gender and orientation lines, and the panic set in. (If you really want the scoop on the mishandling of the early days of HIV/AIDS, read And the Band Played On: Politics, People and the AIDS Epidemic by Randy Shilts. And if you're not pissed off before you're halfway through, screw ya!)

Anyhoooo..... what I've been seeing in my cornfield lately is an increase in people being treated for AIDS and the opportunistic infections that go hand in hand. I had gone 4 years as a nurse in this area and actually cared for only a smattering of HIV positive patients. The last 6 months or so, however, has provided my total clinical experience with HIV with exponential growth! I can't say it's making a "comeback" because it never went anywhere. Not really. It just lost attention because the antiviral cocktails slowed the mortality rate. People are still dying, just not as fast and furiously as before the drugs were developed. But that slow down, the discovery that babies could be spared the virus if the HIV positive mom was on the meds during pregnancy, and the acceptance that casual contact didn't spread the virus all contributed to a change in perception of HIV/AIDS. It kinda fell off the radar, but it didn't fall out of existence. And new cases are on the rise again. And most of these new cases are women. And, as Luvvie pointed out, most of these women are black--66%.

So, I'm thinking, if I go 4 years and see 2 cases of HIV in my cornfield, then see 3 cases in the last 7 months...... what the hell is going on in the Big City? What is the new infection rate like in high density population areas like NY, LA, DC and Chicago? What are the chances that we aren't going to see a frightening upsurge in new cases in the near future?

The science behind preventing the spread of HIV hasn't changed in a decade, really. The fact that AIDS kills hasn't just takes a little longer. What has changed is the general attitude towards it. It used to be a BIG DANGED DEAL, and now, it's not, in many people's minds. Well, dammit, it NEEDS to be. Get tested. Be careful. Use condoms. Quit acting like it has gone away, because IT'S BEEN HERE THE WHOLE TIME!!! Quit ignoring HIV/AIDS. It's as much a part of our world as the oceans, the forests and the fields. Open your eyes, and deal with it.

See, it still says what I want it to say... and it's still relevant (unlike Paula Abdul or Lil' Mama).
For more information, visit the Red Pump Project or the Red Tie Project, or the CDC website.
And for a lil' Ig with your Info, check out Awesomely Luvvie!

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