Today, Ken and I attended a CPR and First Aid training class. The presenter was a firefighter/EMT from our community. And I liked her. She was funny. Really funny. Did I mention likeable? She made the training enjoyable...even at 8 am on a Saturday morning.
However, part way through the training, something was said that really upset me.The trainer was talking about CPR and the new recommendations for compressions and mouth-to-mouth. She said something to the effect of, "As a non-medical professional, you are considered a Good Samaritan, and you aren't legally bound to give mouth to mouth. And if I were you, I wouldn't. Why? Because people are gross. And you never know what gross diseases people have. They might have hepatitis, TB, or AIDS. And although the experts say you can't get AIDS from saliva, I don't believe it."
I'm sorry. What did you say? Surely I must have mis-heard you. But no, you keep talking. You aren't joking. You actually believe what you're saying. STOP.
I have several dear friends who are HIV-positive, and this stigma has got to stop. It's a lie. It's a fear-based lie. I was shocked and disappointed that this medical "authority" would disseminate false information. I was so stunned at the time that I didn't speak up. I wish I had. But now I will...for my friends with HIV, for children with HIV, for anyone touched by HIV. I have to speak up...as a Christian, as a promoter of the truth, as a human being.
First of all, people with Hepatitis, TB, and AIDS are not gross. Some of the symptoms of their disease may be gross, but they are not. They are human beings, dearly loved by God and created in His image.
Second, this woman appeared to have misspoke when she used the term AIDS. I believe she meant HIV. HIV is not AIDS. HIV is a virus, that if left untreated, can cause AIDS. Because of advancements in treatment and testing, it is uncommon for a person with HIV in the United States to progress to having AIDS. In fact, people who are being treated with antiretroviral drugs usually have an undetectable viral load, meaning the virus can not be detected in their blood. Therefore, transmission is very unlikely under any circumstances, and most of them live out normal life spans with minimal health issues. With regular treatment, they can marry, have babies, and do just about anything an HIV-negative person can do.
How is HIV transmitted? A person can contract HIV through mutual blood or semen contact. This most often occurs during unprotected sex or by sharing needles during injection drug use. There are also cases where a mother passes the virus on to her newborn or transmits the virus via breastfeeding. These instances usually occur with people who are not receiving ongoing antiretroviral medications.
If you aren't having sex with an HIV+ person, sharing needles, or being breastfed by a person with HIV, the risk of becoming infected is virtually non-existent.
Can a person get HIV from casual contact with an infected person?
No. HIV is not transmitted by day-to-day contact in the workplace, schools, church, or social settings. HIV is not transmitted through shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, a drinking fountain, a door knob, dishes, drinking glasses, food, or pets. HIV is not an airborne or food-borne virus, and it does not live long outside the body.
Let me repeat: HIV does not survive well outside the human body. You cannot catch HIV through saliva. You cannot catch HIV by touching HIV+ blood unless you have a gaping wound or open sore and it enters your blood stream. If you do have open wounds, you should be using gloves when dealing with anyone's blood.
Friends, PLEASE end the stigma. If the Church is not proclaiming the truth, showing love, and giving compassion to those affected by HIV, who will?
I got this information from the CDC.gov, TheStigmaProject.org, and TheBody.com. Some of it I copied and pasted; some I paraphrased. For more information, visit any of their sites or gather your own research from reputable sources.
Today is World AIDS Day. Feel free to share this post if you want to end the stigma.