Being a teenager in the 1980’s (yes, I know I am admitting my age), AIDS was something that was taken seriously by my generation. Does that mean that my peers were always careful? No, the number of unwed teenage mothers in my graduating class proves that many were not careful. Yet, we were still fearful of AIDS.
Why wouldn’t we be fearful? We heard about it constantly. It was on the news. We saw the pictures of the poor victims of the disease. We all knew how they got it and we knew how they were going to live; how they were going to possibly die.
Now years later, we don’t hear as much about AIDS or HIV (the virus that can led to AIDS). We all know that people are living with HIV. We all know that now there are people who have had this virus (HIV) for twenty years. They are alive.
Since they are alive, does that means HIV is not a hindrance in their lives. In some ways, it doesn’t hinder their lives. They can lead productive lives. But can they lead a normal life? Now you may start arguing the point of what is normal and start getting all intellectual on me. But you know what normal is and what normal isn’t. Normal is being able to live without thinking about this virus you have, even if the thought is just a subconscious one.
Could you just stop for a moment and think about the life of a person who is living with HIV.
Let’s say the person is a female, named Leslie. Leslie is twenty-seven years old. She has had the virus for ten years. She acquired it the usual way from sex.
No, it was not her first sexual encounter. Leslie started having sex at sixteen. She wanted to be popular. She wanted to be like the other kids. She heard them talking about sex, she saw sex in the movies, sex was sung about in the songs on the radio, sex was everywhere. Yet, Leslie was not promiscuous. She had only been with two boys, who she considered boyfriends and who she thought she loved. Her mother sensed that Leslie was sexually active. She put her on the pill. She didn’t want her to get pregnant. But that was that. She didn’t warn her about diseases and they were only glossed over in health class. Then Leslie met Tony. He not only broke her heart he gave her HIV. A year later, she found this out during a routine blood test during a physical for a job.
Leslie was eighteen years old and she thought her life was going to end.
Her life did not end, though. She was treated early. She was put on a regime of pills. She went to the doctor on a routinely basis. She ate healthy and stayed away from people who she knew were sick. (Her immune system could be compromised easily because of the HIV virus).
Now Leslie is twenty-seven years old. Is her life the same as the normal twenty-seven year old? No.
For one thing, Leslie wears a watch out of necessity. It has an alarm on it. In her purse she carries bottles of pills, each bottle has an assigned time written on it. When her watch beeps she has to take a handful of pills from the assigned bottle. Those pills are her life-line.
Can Leslie work? Yes, she has a full-time job. But it isn’t her dream job. She wanted to go into the medical profession. Her dream was to start out as a nurse and who knows what else that would have to lead to, if she was normal. After hearing she had HIV, she changed her plans. She didn’t want to risk infecting someone. Nurses were around open wounds she didn’t want to take the chance infecting other people.
As for relationships, Leslie does date. Does she have sexual relations, not on a steady basis. She doesn’t want to risk others and she is honest. When she tells a man she has HIV, he usually bolts. Leslie understands.
Leslie dreams of being a mother. To do this, she will now have to adopt. To have a child naturally, the child would be infected with the HIV virus. Yet, she fears when she starts the adoption process every agency will hold her HIV status against her because they do require a medical exam and statements from doctors.
Yes, Leslie is alive. This fact does make her thankful. Poor Tony wasn’t as lucky. He died at the age of twenty. Yet, she can’t live a normal life.
Is AID’s and HIV still an important issue? Yes. Should you consider this the next time you are out with a stranger before you get to the point of no return? Yes. Should you take the time and discuss this and other diseases with your children, especially your teenage children? Yes. We hear all the announcements warning children about having safe sex so they don’t have become pregnant, this does not always stop them. But tell them about the Leslie’s of this world and how they could very well have to live their future life. That may make an impact on them.