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HIV and AIDS: Getting the message across

by Archives December 5, 2001
Dec. 1 is World AIDS day and everybody has heard of HIV and AIDS at least one time in their life, but everyone doesn’t really know what this complex disease really is.
It’s important to understand that HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. HIV means Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The expression that you might have heard is that someone is HIV positive. This means that the person has contracted the virus, but it is not active in their body.
On the other hand, AIDS means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The difference is that now the virus is active and is breaking down the person’s immune system.
In both cases, infected people take medication to help them through the disease. In the case of HIV, the medicines try to prevent the virus’ from developing; and in the case of AIDS, medicines try to prevent the infected person from diseases, since his immune system is not well protected.
Owen Moran, health educator in the health services department at Concordia University, says that HIV testing is offered for free on the campus, but it’s rare that people ask for it. He also says that at Concordia, there are nurses, doctors and psychologists to help people with the disease. The problem is that HIV and AIDS are complex diseases and “the health services are not specialized to deal with all aspects of HIV.” They refer people who need help to a hospital that has special units to help infected people.
For psychological help health services refers the people to ACCM (Aids Community Care of Montreal). ACCM offers social support and is a place people in need can always turn to.
Some people may ask themselves what kind of people can be infected, anyone. The perception is that AIDS is a homosexual disease or an immigrant disease. What people should know is that AIDS “is not a disease of a group, it’s a disease of behavior,” according to Moran.
Studies show that young people, between the age of 15 and 25 years old, are more at risk. The reason for this is that young people are more willing to take risks, to push the limits, and to have more sexual partners.
They may be not well informed about AIDS and will have the attitude that ‘it’s not gonna happen to me.’ Well, yes, it could happen to you, as well as your cousin, or your neighbor. It could be anybody. The best way to stay healthy is something you probably heard more than a thousand times in your life: TAKE PRECAUTIONS. But sometimes it seems a thousand times is not enough for people to remember.

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