A few weeks ago I watched "The Announcement" about Magic Johnson sharing with the world his HIV+ status in 1991. It was really good; I recommend watching it if you are able to. It got me doing some thinking...
That was 21 years ago; in just 21 years look how things have changed! And in that same amount of time, which is 2/3 of my lifetime, look at how little has changed.
The reactions to his announcement by the media was kinda crazy to see. They expected him to just shrivel up and die. HIV is no longer a death sentence and it doesn't even mean that a person is guaranteed to get AIDS. A good many people that are HIV+ live long and healthy lives and never actually develop AIDS! This is an amazing fact!
The amount of research and advancements in medications have been astounding considering the relatively short length of time that this virus has been around. Cases like my sister's are helping to prove that early treatment can truly make a difference. HIV+ women can even get pregnant and have babies without passing on the virus to their child with the right medications!
People were so scared about contact with Magic Johnson back then and to some extent we continue to see that today. The stigma is still there, unfortunately. You cannot "catch" HIV like a cold. It is not spread through snot, saliva, urine, or sweat. Normal interactions in a home, work or school environment are not risky. So many people just lack proper education, even after 21 years! With such a technological society and with a vast amount of knowledge at our fingertips, you would think there would be no room left for ignorance. And yet, ignorance about HIV abounds...
As someone who is becoming very educated on this subject (since my sister has it), it's kinda funny the things I get bothered by. One major thing that bothers me (that is just ignorance) is how some people use the terms HIV and AIDS interchangeably.
Another issue I have is that people are not being tested. There are many reasons I'm sure, some valid, some not. I think the majority of people just are in denial that it could happen to them and think they have no need to go get tested. Some people are just scared. Some just don't care. There is free, anonymous and confidential testing available all over the USA...go get tested if you haven't before or haven't recently!
It's interesting to me to think about how much I have changed in the midst of my sister's diagnosis. My sister posted a poem on her blog about the stigma that she has encountered and quotes me from near the beginning of all this saying, "I'd freak out if my kid's babysitter had HIV". Now it's hard to even remember feeling like that. Yes, I'd want to know but I wouldnt "freak out."
Education breaks down the stigma and allows us all to see people as who they really are, not just as a virus they carry. Thank you Magic Johhnson for continuing to educate the world and thank you Jessica for educating me (and everyone else you have touched with your blog)!