Friday, January 22, 2010

A public service announcement.

While the bulk of my posts will concern parenting and children directly, there will be the occasional post that is less specifically focused.  Rather, some of these posts will pertain to a larger focus group:  Everyone.

I wrote this a while back, but the information and the sentiment has not changed.  Please, read it.  Take it to heart.  Talk to your children, show it to friends, do more research, and keep yourself and your loved ones safe.

With HIV/AIDS awareness having been swept under the rug in our country, the epidemic is once again on the rise.  My child will NOT be blindfolded to the reality of this disease.

It is not a discriminatory disease.  It doesn't care if you're young or old, black, white, purple, pink, green, blue, transgendered, gay, bisexual, straight, pansexual, asexual... it's ruthless in it's determination to simply infect.

That is what makes it so unique and the search for a cure so desperate and bleak in regards to when we'll find it.

To put it very, very, very simply:  When you vaccinate against a virus, you're introducing into the body a killed or dormant form of the virus so that the body can make antibodies.  What people who don't go beyond basic biology don't usually know, though, is that it's not the RNA of the virus - essentially, not the virus itself - that we make antibodies against.  It's the protein coat that protects the RNA - the virus's winter coat.

The HIV virus is adept at changing its protein coat.  The virus is in a constant form of mutation.  Often, multiple strains of the virus can be found in the body at one time.

HIV's ability to change is FIVE TIMES GREATER than that of the varying viruses in the Influenza family.  FIVE TIMES.  Influenza was previously the record holder for antigenic shift rate.  Seriously, though.  Consider the fact that semi-annual to annual re-vaccination for influenza is recommended, and even then only up to approximately 75% effective.

Are you thinking, yet?  Has it hit you?

Scratch all of my bullshit wish list requests for this year.

What I want from every one of you - anyone I call a friend, no matter how loosely I use the term - is for you to become involved.

I don't necessarily mean involved as in volunteering in your community or donating to a global fund, though that would be great if you're feeling so inclined.  I mean involved in that you inform yourself.

I will be happy if you do nothing more than arm yourself with information and use it to protect yourself and the people you love.

Parents, research it as much as you do proper nutrition for your child,  Ladies, be as familiar with it as you are with breast cancer and cervical cancer.  Men, it means the livelihood of your penis, for god's sake!  *grins*

Don't tell me you'll never be in a situation where you could contract HIV.  Condoms break.  Partners cheat.  Sexual assaults occur.  The eradication of blood-born pathogens is not ALWAYS complete when it comes to donor blood and organs, though recent statistics for blood are something like 27 infected transfusions per 12 million.  Bus crashes where the person spurting blood all over you is infected.  Needle sticks (though, I shouldn't have to tell my medical profession friends ANYTHING about this, now should I?  You've all been informed about your right to prophylactic treatment if you find yourself in a high-risk situation, correct?  If you haven't, FIND OUT!)

Hell, I once watched a waitress mop up the blood off of a table from a patron's nosebleed, using nothing more than a damp rag.  No bleach, no sanitizer, nothing.  (She got a VERY stern lecture, escorted by me back to the ladies room to wash her hands thoroughly, bleach poured over the rag, and her manager tiraded at as well.  I'm no longer allowed in the restaurant.)

Do you see my point, though?  If the blood left behind on the table had been infected and you were the next patron to come in and you happened to land your paper-cut thumb in that bit of wet infected blood, that would be an exposure.  HOPEFULLY we're all intelligent enough to notice something like that, but still.  OR:  If you were back in the kitchen and you handled that towel with still-wet infectious blood, not realizing what was actually on the towel, you'd have just been exposed.

"Well, the virus isn't supposed to live very long outside the human body.  *whine*"  It doesn't if the bodily fluids capable of transmission are properly disinfected or dried.  There's a reason that sharps containers are labeled a biohazard, though.  Wet infectious fluid is STILL INFECTIOUS.

"Well, if I'm fucking a dead woman who was HIV positive while she was alive, I'll be fine because she's dead."

First of all, stop violating the dead. This is not Twilight, it's not the "in" thing to do. Second of all, infected tissues are still to be considered infected and thusly biohazardous post-mortem.  PPE is to be used at all times!

Learning about HIV and HIV testing are simple, free, and anonymous if you so wish.  How can you go wrong with things that are simple, free, and anonymous?

If you don't want to ask me, or anyone else, I'll start you off regarding testing:  Your local Planned Parenthood, health department, and even your town blood bank all offer free and anonymous testing.

For those of you who are curious, my passion comes from two places:  Growing up on the tails of my mother's lab coat in a pediatric infectious diseases lab, thus knowing that there were kids my age and younger who suffered under the tyranny of this disease, and later as an adult witnessing first hand the suffering it causes as it took someone I loved very much away from me far too early.

One simple wish from me this Christmas that every single one of you can fulfill.  Just... know.

So I don't end this without some "fun" information, I give you an often suppressed and very difficult to find documentary on the source of the AIDS pandemic in Africa.  Seriously, it's riveting.  Dutch researchers and Simian Immunodeficiency Virus and Government-mandated Polio Vaccines, Oh My! - pick your hosting site.  I recommend the full-screen version, as it's the closest to the original that was ever released, before some shady editing was done.

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