No, I don't worry about AIDS anymore

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Sandra Porter

But that hasn't always been true.

When I was in college, I had part-time jobs drawing blood from patients in the university hospital and as a phlebotomist at local plasma center. Plus, I was a volunteer EMT on an ambulance crew. Needless to say, I saw plenty of blood. And those were the days when no one wore gloves. We used to be tested every few months for hepatitis, since it was pretty common for the hospital lab techs to get that, so I did worry about hepatitis.

When I went to graduate school, and realized that the hospital where I had worked, had been treating some of the first AIDS patients; I worried about AIDS.

When my husband was working as a technician at a biotech company, developing an HIV test, and came home and told me that he and some other technicians had done ELISAs on samples that turned out to have incredibly high concentrations of HIV; I worried about AIDS.

When my husband told me they were running tests on samples from young male friends of one of the scientists; I worried about AIDS. When some of the people I knew got sick (and died), and when some of my former students got sick (and died); I worried about AIDS.

Now, I have other worries that have pushed AIDS off of my top ten worry list.

The reason that I worry much less about AIDS, is because we know how HIV is transmitted and we know how to prevent it. The blood banks and clinical labs have gotten much more careful and we've learned to treat blood as the potentially hazardous material that it is.

Now, in the moments that I do worry about AIDS, I worry about children. I worry about date rape drugs and my daughters. I worry about young girls in communities that refuse to talk about protection. I feel sad that this epidemic is perpetuated by social mores, ignorance, and sexism.

And, whenever I can, when I do professional development workshops, and elsewhere, I do my best to give college and high-school teachers activities that cover HIV evolution. I don't know that this will encourage kids to take steps to prevent AIDS, but I think it's critically important that kids learn that drug-resistant forms of the virus always appear, given enough time. Kids have to know that is NO cure for AIDS except prevention.


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