Wednesday, October 14, 2009

The HIV Epidemic

On Thursday October 8, 2009, in my class HLH 163: The HIV Epidemic, we had a guest speaker. This was a unique visit as our guest was HIV positive. Having never met anyone with HIV or heard of anyone other than celebrities, this sounded like it would be an interesting learning experience. When time came for class, the door opened and our speaker entered...

As class began, our speaker stood patiently waiting to speak to us. Once our professor was finished with introductions, he took centerstage and began to speak. I won't say his name as it would be morally insensitive to do so. He started out by saying he has been HIV positive for 22 years. He then proceeded to tell us the troubles with his family he had as a child causing him to run away and engage in high risk behavior. This in turn led him to be infected with the virus at age 15. The worst part about it was that the person he was with knew they had HIV and did not disclose it. Following this, he had problems in school and was even kicked out due to his infection and sued to get back in. This became high profile at the time and he gained national exposure meeting people like President Bill Clinton, Ryan White, and even Michael Jackson. He eventually forgave the person who infected him while they were on their deathbed and told us never to hold grudges no matter how angry you get. He also emphasized that he does not let the disease take over him. He lives his life just like anyone else and blames no one but himself for what he has. Through this, he tries to make the world a better place for him to live in and for others by educating them on the subject.

This lecture was an eye opening experience. Never before had I met someone who was HIV positive. Hearing him speak made me think about all the things in my life and my future both personally and professionally. Personally, I have to make sure that I keep myself safe from unsafe environments and negative people. It is the best way to maintain my own safety. Professionally, it is my responsibility to inform my students of all the dangers in the world and help them find ways to avoid them. This goes beyond the normal scope of being a teacher and connects to the community on a personal level. The only way to prevent bad things from happening is through proper education.

People tend to think they know so much on a topic that they never have experienced or have had shown to them. We take for granted many things in our lives and do not think how other's problems may be worse then our own. We must work together to ensure not only the safety and well-being of ourselves, but also those around us.

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