By Katie Paulson
Illustration by Patricia Tompkins
Arizona Daily Wildcat
Tuesday, November 29, 2005
Forty million people around the world are infected with HIV/AIDS. By December, 3 million will die and another 5 million will transmit the disease.
In a world full of mind-boggling technology, vast amounts of education and countries overflowing with medical and monetary resources, how does such a preventable yet ravishing disease consume the lives of that many individuals?
Here, we can fight on behalf of our fellow citizens stricken with HIV/AIDS.
Thursday marks AIDS Awareness Day 2005, but who's really taking notice? Here in the U.S., the mention of HIV/AIDS sparks buzzwords stemming from the 1980s panic that the Reagan administration at first refused to acknowledge. But in the past 25 years, these diseases have taken a back seat to anthrax, SARS, and now the impending avian flu.
Unfortunately, this is the precise mentality that allows the detrimental spread of HIV. We have assumed that victims of HIV/AIDS have segregated themselves to the sub-Saharan continent, creating an epidemic that has wiped out too many people already.
In fact, that's grossly misguided. Every hour, HIV infects two Americans between the ages of 13 and 24. Expanding outward, this equates to about one in every 300 Americans living as HIV positive. That means that at the UA, which has a population of 37,000 undergraduate and graduate students, roughly 123 people have HIV.
Every hour, HIV infects two Americans between the ages of 13 and 24. This equates to one in every 300 Americans.
What's worse, 25 percent of people infected with HIV lack any knowledge of their disease. This leads to HIV spreading faster than a brush wildfire in the dry Arizona summer.
Perhaps what's most troubling about HIV/AIDS is its core method of transmission. Apart from the physical transfer of the particular antibodies, it boils down to either a person's complete disregard of his or her condition, misinformation or complete unawareness.
Somehow in the mix of instructions regarding avoiding pregnancy and gonorrhea, HIV was labeled as the disease that no one really "gets;" it bears this awesome power of having realistic and fictional qualities wrapped up within its portrayal.
This fusion creates a false sense of security. Those engaged in sexual activities tend to shroud themselves in an "it can't happen to me" mentality, which propagates the further spread of HIV through the population.
How utterly frightening is that fact? A sexual partner could unintentionally bestow a death sentence on his or her partner, regardless of sexuality, gender, race or other factors incorrectly attributed to the spread of HIV.
To combat such an overpowering disease, our generation needs to take a stand and demand proper education for all individuals within the U.S. and then reach to other nations severely crippled by a simple lack of knowledge.
Leading the charge, the World AIDS Campaign, which took over the sponsorship of World AIDS Day this year, declared 2005's theme as "Stop AIDS: Keep the Promise." Such promises include the U.N. General Assembly Special Session Declaration of Commitment, which promises a reduction of HIV prevalence by 25 percent among men and women aged 15 to 24 in the most affected countries.
Another promise incorporated by countries in the United Nations includes an increase of $7 billion to $10 billion in low- and middle-income countries on HIV- and AIDS-related expenses, whether it's education, treatment or other necessary accommodations.
Growing up in a country where illnesses don't wipe out entire cities within a six-month period, it's difficult for most Americans to grasp the severity of HIV engulfing entire continents. Yet HIV still remains a component of American life. We can't allow those affected to slip under the radar as we grapple with the recent divorce rumors of Nick and Jessica.
Unlike other education institutions, the university setting allows us the opportunity to experience real-world situations in a hands-on environment. Resources dangle at our fingertips, waiting to be plucked and carried out into new territories desperate for such tokens of knowledge.
In order to maximize our fullest potential, we must take advantage of our currently (and generally) appointed lot: the hopeful, somewhat naïve but passionate college student. We advocate personal responsibility (à la the right to skip 8 a.m. classes) and wish to leave a lasting impression on the world.
Whether idealistic or bordering on reality, this picturesque image of a person is the kind that has the power to fight in the war on human survival both at home and abroad.
So, on Thursday, let's change this to "It can happen to me" and engage ourselves in the battle to save humanity from its own demise.
Katie Paulson is a junior majoring in English and political science. She can be reached at email@example.com.