AIDS -A HEALTHY ATTITUDE
The List‘s Student Guide offered advice on how to cope with AIDS. Jamie Cossar. administrator of . Scottish AIDS Monitor. had some criticisms of that advice and outlines below the approach advised by SIA.M.
Most people. from kids in the playground to pensioners watching the telly. have heard of AIDS. There are a lot of misconceptions and ideas concerning AIDS and the virus that causes it — the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (I Il\').
People often hear of ‘high risk groups" affected by AIDS. but the important thing is that it‘s not the ‘group' that you belong to but it's what you do and how you look alter yourself.
I’eople catch AIDS from having sex with someone who is infected with HIV. and frotn infected blood. So who are the ‘types' of people who have been inlected‘.’ The simple answer is every ‘type' or ‘group': heterosexual men and women. drug users. gay men. ltaemophiliaes. lesbians. babies. blacks. w bites and so on - the list is endless. We need to forget about groups and concentrate on activities.
What constitutes a high risk activity or a low risk activity"?
Because Hl\' is found primariy in blood. semen and vaginal fluids it is risky to have anal intercourse in any circumstances — and remember.
heterosexual couples practise anal intercourse as w el as gay men. There is at the moment a lairly small proportion ol heterosexuals infected with the virus but this figure is increasing every month. llie potential for the spread of the y irus is highlighted by statistics lroni New York which estimate that one person in ten is already infected and that AIDS is the single biggest killer of women between the ages of 22 to 35. live years ago most people in New York would have thought that AIDS wouldn't affect them but they hay c had to learn the hard way . We can all learn from that tragedy and w hen hay ing y aginal intercourse it is recommended that you always use a condom.
Most other lorms ol'sexual aetiy it_\ are sale including oral sex and mutual masturbation. It is recommended though that it you have cutson your gums you give oral se\ a miss this time. and always coy er cuts on the hands with a waterprool plaster. You should always remember general health risks w hen being involved in more diy erse
sexual practices ie S& M. urinating on each other. etc.
If you have to inject drugs. never share needles and clean your equipment in a bleach solution. Safe sex is here to help you look after yoursell'and your partner in the same way that you would eat a healthy diet and exercise.
The other thing I want to concentrate on is the issue of deciding il you want an I ll\' test. Remember. the test only tells you if you have I ll\' antibodies in your blood and nothing else. There are lots of other issues to think about and you should have professional counselling before a test. The problem is that some places do not provide counselling services and this can lead to unforeseen difficulties. ()lten. if the person has a positive result. it can be a great shock to them. They are left wondering what w ill happen in the future -— ifor when they might become ill or die. feelings of guilt and anger. worry about deciding w ho they should tell and w hat the reaction of those people w ill be to the news. Many people have been rejected by friends and family because of their I II\' status. hay c lost jobs. won‘t get life insurance or ex en dental treatment! ()it the other hand. sortie people feel that they would much rather know
w hat their status is. possibly because ‘
of past activities which may have been risky or iftbey want a long term relationship without haying to use a
condom every time they make love.
I cannot emphasise enough how carefully you must consider the pros and cons of haying a test before coming to any conclusion.
The best places to go in (‘entral Scotland for a test are listed below. At Ruchill Hospital in Glasgow and at the (‘ity Hospital in Edinburgh you need only give a Christian name and the first three digits ofyour postal code. Remember. it is you who are in control when you visit a clinic * don‘t let yourselfbe pressurised into giving information that you don’t want to tell. All tests are done in confidence and at the twt centres mentioned you should receive counselling before and after the test. presuming you decide to go ahead.
The short and simple message is that nobody needs to get AIDS. If you look after yourself and your partner by practising safer sex and not injecting drugs. you can lead a positive and healthy life.
I The Counselling Clinic Ruchill Hospital. Ruchill. Glasgow. 04] 9-16 52547.
I The Counselling Clinic (‘ity Hospital. Edinburgh. (I31 4-17 100]. I Scottish AIDS Monitor, AIDS lnlormation Lines For advice and information on the test. AIDS and Ill\’:(l~11221 7467 (weekday evenings 7.3(l—ll)pm);()3155811(i7 (as above). or write to:
Scottish AIDS Monitor. PO Box 48. Edinburgh EH1 3SA.
Louise Tait reports from Washington on the unveiling of a memorial to those who have died
Around eighty thousand people in America currently have the full-blown AIDS syndrome. with over forty-one thousand people thought to have died there from AIDS since 1981. Iti New York City alone an estimated two hundred thousand people are carrying the AIDS virus. a figure which is constantly rising.
It is THE topic ofevery American chat show. and without the benefit of a public education programme on the scale of that launched by the British government. it is a very emotive issue. yet it has hardly been mentioned in the months of electioneering.
It's perhaps not surprising
of I? h
. 1- ‘M “
therefore. that when the world‘s largest AIDS memorial was unveiled in front of what will become either the Bush or Dukakis official residence. neither of the candidates were there to see it. The memorial was in the lorrn ol a massive patchwork quilt. covering an area equivalent to live football pitches and representing nine thousand people with AIDS who have died. Iiach three-loot by six-foot panel remembered the name of one person and had been lovingly made by relatives and friends. many of w hom were among the hundreds of thousands of Americans who travelled to Washington to see the quilt laid out in front of the White
The Names Project was launched in June l‘)b’7. when two young men in San I’rancisco decided it was time to show the people of America the reality of the AIDS problem. Their aims were to reveal the humanity behind the statistics. to give those whose lives had been touched by the epidemic a positive and creative means of expression. to raise funds for vital services and encourage support for people with AIDS and their loved ones.
Some panels were simply a name on a plain backing. others included articles of favourite clothing. photographs and momentoes. Those remembered in the quilt were as diverse as the panels themselves. They came from every corner of the l‘nited States. and froin every social background. There were stockbrokers. athletes. housewives. truck drivers. babies and grandparents. Some were famous. like liberace and Rock Hudson — others were anonymous.
'/.ack I laufman I-‘ried from I.os A ngelcs died at the age of five and a half. after contracting AIDS from a blood transfusion he was given when he w as born. I Iis mother Annabelle made his panel with a never-ending rail-track and stuffed train. to show his love of the railway.
‘Alter we discovered Zack had AIDS I felt I was living a nightmare.
It‘s a horrible feeling when you wake up and that’s the bad dream.‘ she
said. ‘It's like a gurllottne hanging over your head and you don‘t know when it‘s going to fall. or how it’s going to fall. you just know it will.‘
Annabelle said making the quilt panel helped her through her grief. She cared for her son at home until he died. but she had to keep the fact that he had AIDS secret from other parents. ‘People have an irrational fear about AIDS. It‘s a difficult virus to catch from everyday contact. but they are afraid and fear is a hard thing to fight.‘ It was perhaps fear of linking their names too closely to the AIDS epidemic which kept George Bush and Michael Dukakis away from the memorial quilt when it was in Washington. Kitty Dukakis was to speak at the unveiling. but her plane was delayed.
Several film and theatre stars did attend and lent their support to the Names Project. Among them Richard Gere. who after touring some ofthe five miles of walkways around the quilt panels. said: "This is a tremendous statement of compassion and suffering which governments will not be able to ignore.‘ Other countries. including Britain. are planning to follow the American quilt-makers' lead sewing panels to remember their own people killed by AIDS. With new names being added to the memorial daily we can only hope governments worldwide take note.
4The l.ist ZSOct — 10 Nov 1988