This month’s Social Justice Challenge theme is AIDS. I remember when AIDS was all over the headlines – I was a new physical therapist living in the San Francisco Bay area and the fear around this illness was rampant … and so were the misconceptions and myths. Luckily, we are now all better educated about this disease and how it spreads. But I thought I would post a few facts about AIDS:
AIDS is not the same as HIV:
HIV stands for ‘human immunodeficiency virus’. HIV is a virus that infects cells of the human immune system and destroys or impairs their function. Infection with this virus results in the progressive deterioration of the immune system eventually leading to ‘immune deficiency’. Infections associated with severe immunodeficiency are known as ‘opportunistic infections.’ AIDS stands for ‘acquired immunodeficiency syndrome’ and the diagnosis of AIDS is based on signs, symptoms, infections, and cancers associated with the deficiency of the immune system that stems from infection with HIV. SO, someone can be infected with the HIV virus, but not yet have acquired AIDS.
The only way to determine whether HIV is present in a person’s body is by testing for HIV antibodies or for HIV itself. The majority of people infected with HIV, if not treated, develop signs of HIV-related illness within 5-10 years, but the time between infection with HIV and being diagnosed with AIDS can be 10–15 years, sometimes longer. – from Un-AIDS Fast Facts –
HIV is spread by sexual contact with an infected person, by sharing needles and/or syringes (primarily for drug injection) with someone who is infected, or, less commonly (and now very rarely in countries where blood is screened for HIV antibodies), through transfusions of infected blood or blood clotting factors. Babies born to HIV-infected women may become infected before or during birth or through breastfeeding after birth. – from the CDC website –
Other facts about transmission:
- Health care workers have been infected with HIV after being stuck with needles containing HIV-infected blood or, less frequently, after infected blood gets into a worker’s open cut or a mucous membrane (for example, the eyes or inside of the nose).
- Mosquitoes do NOT transmit HIV infection. HIV does not survive well in the environment, making the possibility of environmental transmission remote.
- Casual contact through closed-mouth or “social” kissing is not a risk for transmission of HIV.
HIV has been found in saliva and tears in very low quantities from some AIDS patients. It is important to understand that finding a small amount of HIV in a body fluid does not necessarily mean that HIV can be transmitted by that body fluid. HIV has not been recovered from the sweat of HIV-infected persons. Contact with saliva, tears, or sweat has never been shown to result in transmission of HIV. – from the CDC website –
This month I intend to read a non fiction book by Melissa Fay Greene titled: There is No Me Without You. This is a story about Mrs. Haragewoin, a middle-class Ethiopian widow who turned her home into a refuge for hundreds of children with AIDS.
Melissa Fay Greene is an award winning journalist who has written about many topics of social justice including civil rights, coal mine disasters, and the HIV/AIDS pandemic in Africa. To learn more about Greene and her work, visit the author’s website.
I have decided to join the amazing people over at Quilts for Kids and craft a quilt for a sick child. Quilts for Kids distributes quilts in the United States to children in hospitals who are battling life-threatening illnesses, including AIDS. Their mission statement:
Transforming discontinued, unwanted and other fabrics into patchwork quilts that comfort children with life-threatening illnesses and children of abuse.
I am really excited about doing this project. I am not sure I will complete it before the end of May due to my trip to NYC at the end of the month for the BEA. BUT, I will definitely get it done by mid-June and will share it with you before I send it off to Quilts for Kids.