Column by Dona Koenigsman, Student Health Director
I hope everyone in student land had a refreshing holiday and came back ready to tackle the last mountain of papers and finals. In our world, SHC is calmer and not so packed with H1N1 patients. We’ve offered some vaccines and are going to offer more clinics, so keep your eyes open for announcements and fliers.
This week’s hot topic was World Aids Day and the Aids Quilt that had a brief visit to the Union. I am in awe of a disease that has continued to baffle the scientists of our generation: No vaccines exist at this time, let alone a cure.
I remember my college days, and no, I didn’t ride to school in a covered wagon. However, there was a lot of hype during the 1980s about this horrible AIDS disorder and all the ways it was transmitted. I remember the efforts to educate the public on methods of transmission, safe sex and all the other information we still continue to harp about to young and old.
It almost is amusing to think about how we were worried about someone living in the household with an AIDS patient “infecting” another child in school, using plastic silverware for all AIDS patients in hospitals in the event the sanitizer didn’t kill all the “germs” and in general all the different ways the general public came up with that AIDS could possibly be transferred.
AIDS could have become the leprosy of biblical times if modern science hadn’t intervened. Can you imagine living in a special community where possibly no one wanted to care for the patients except other AIDS victims? From a pessimistic view, it’s a death sentence, and who wants to take the risk of dying to care for others?
Thankfully, the earlier the detection, the better the prognosis. When medication is started early in the disease, the body has a better chance to fight the disease and the damage to the immune system. Therefore, it is important to follow the guidelines I am going to throw at you again.
How HIV Is and Is Not Transmitted:
HIV is a fragile virus. It can’t live for very long outside the body. As a result, the virus is not transmitted through day-to-day activities such as shaking hands, hugging, or a casual kiss. You cannot become infected from a toilet seat, drinking fountain, doorknob, dishes, drinking glasses, food or pets. You also can’t get HIV from mosquitoes.
HIV is primarily found in the blood, semen or vaginal fluid of an infected person. HIV is transmitted in 3 ways:
Having sex (anal, vaginal, or oral) with someone infected with HIV, sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV, and being exposed (fetus or infant) to HIV before or during birth or through breast feeding.
Risk Factors for HIV Transmission:
You may be at increased risk for infection if you have injected drugs or steroids, during which equipment (such as needles, syringes, cotton, water) and blood were shared with others, had unprotected vaginal, anal or oral sex with men who have had sex with men, multiple partners, or anonymous partners, or exchanged sex for drugs or money, been given a diagnosis of, or been treated for, hepatitis, tuberculosis (TB), or a sexually transmitted disease (STD) such as syphilis.
To protect yourself, remember these ABCs:
Protect yourself: Get tested for HIV.
If you are a woman who is planning to get pregnant or who is pregnant, get tested as soon as possible, before you have your baby.
Ask your partners if they have recently been tested for HIV; encourage those who have not been tested to do so.
Use a latex condom every time you have sex.
If you think you may have been exposed to another STD such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or infection, get treatment. These diseases can increase your risk of getting HIV.
Get vaccinated against hepatitis B virus.
Get tested for this during your annual checkup.
Don’t inject illicit drugs or use illicit drugs.
Symptoms of HIV Infection: The only way to know whether you are infected is to be tested for HIV.
Finding a Testing Site:You can locate a testing site by visiting the CDC online or by calling CDC-INFO (formerly the CDC National AIDS Hotline) at 1-800-CDC-INFO (1-800-232-4636). You do not have to give any personal information about yourself to use these services to find a testing site.
The Student Health Center also offers HIV and other sexually transmitted infection testing. Feel free to contact us at 785 628 4293.