Bobbie Bryant, from Action for a Better Community, spoke with students at the Ruth Merrill Center about the effects of HIV/AIDS in our community on Nov. 30. The discussion took place on the eve of National AIDS Day.
With recent statistics showing that the number of people living with HIV or AIDS has risen to 39.4 million globally, members of the UR community felt it important to continue to educate students regarding health concerns about AIDS. “In your college community, young people often times think they’re not at risk,” Bryant said.
HIV and AIDS have been impacting the world for over two decades, but significant advances have been made in order to inform people of the health risks.
“Twenty years ago nobody talked about AIDS – nobody went to the AIDS clinic,” Bryant said.
HIV is a viral disease that attacks the immune system. “There are four ways of contracting HIV – through semen, blood, breast milk and vaginal fluids,” Community Liaison for the Pride Network and junior Daniel Chu said. “The HIV virus is the main culprit to the development of AIDS. The U.S. Center for Disease Control and Prevention estimated that over 380,000 people were living with AIDS in America. In addition, 37 percent were white, 42 percent were black and 20 percent were Hispanic.”
Bryant explained that national health centers provide pamphlets and condoms to people who take advantage of the resource. “The U.S. has the best access to technology, medication and the simple act of prevention. However, the numbers are staggeringly high and continue to increase,” Bryant said.
“The reporting of persons diagnosed with HIV has not yet been implemented in all areas,” Chu said. “Anonymous tests are excluded from case reports.”
Students brought up other methods that UR could implement to prevent the spread of sexually transmitted diseases. “[The use of female condoms] is growing and becoming more popular,” Bryant said. “Sensitivity [for men] is reported to be greater because of the material [polyurethane] and the lubricants.”
Students continued with a discussion of misconceptions that society has with birth control. “Birth control doesn’t protect against STDs,” co-chair of the Pride Network Kelly McNamee said.
Students were surprised to find that the treatment of condoms could make them less effective. “Heat makes a condom more likely to tear,” Chu said. “So placing them in your wallet is not the smartest idea.”
The discussion then shifted to the lifestyle people living with HIV and AIDS must face with. “Once you have HIV, you have to take at least three drugs to make the combination effective [in helping you live longer],” Bryant said.
“Side effects include energy being drained, muscle soreness, depression,” Chu said. “The problem with the medication is the amount of time you may have to take them. Though taking the medication helps prolong life and prevent death, after six years, your liver begins to take the toll and the medications have to be readjusted.”
With Rochester as a leading city in AIDS research, Bryant felt those at UR should be informed. “UR is a community within Rochester and there should be no reason why everyone shouldn’t know their HIV status,” Bryant said.
In recent years, the city of Rochester was ranked third in the nation with the highest number of gonorrhea rates. A connection between HIV and other STDs was discussed. “HIV follows the patterns and behavior for both gonorrhea and chlamydia,” Chu said. “You sexual health is your own, not anyone else’s,” Bryant concluded.
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