I am writing to you out of concern for students who may be confused by Greg Louganis' recent announcement that he is HIV positive and has developed AIDS as a result of this infection. I myself was shocked and saddened to hear it, but I am concerned that his announcement will only heighten people's fears about the way this virus is transmitted. I applaud Louganis for his honesty about his status and for his fear that he may have infected others after his injury in 1988. However, I feel that the one hope we have in stopping this disease, the only light at all lies in this fact: The methods of HIV transmission have not changed in all the years scientists have been studying it. With all the press about how quickly HIV mutates and how hard AIDS is to treat and to cure, it is easy to forget this fact. These are the facts. HIV is transmitted by (1) blood-to-blood contact (2) sexual contact exhanging semen or vaginal secretions and (3) from mother to child either in the womb or via breast feeding. That's it. These are the only ways. Therefore Louganis' fear that he somehow infected others by bleeding into the pool is unwarranted. Not only would the chlorine in the pool likely kill the virus, but the virus would become so diluted by the pool water as to make transmission virtually impossible.
Having said all of this, I want to stress that I think that HIV's one great lesson to the world is that there are no absolutes. HIV knows no boundaries. People are shocked to hear (myself included) that Mr. All-American Greg Louganis has AIDS as if this disease doesn't kill the beautiful people. The tragedy of this disease is that it robs the world of its youth. AIDS is now the number one cause of death of people in this country between the ages of 25-44. The fact of the matter is AIDS can happen to anyone. Though now cliche, the phrase "it's not who you are but what you do that matters," has never been more true. I can't help but wonder how many more beautiful, talented people we have to lose before we realize this fact. And to all of you out there struggling with this disease, I commend you even though that's probably not what you really want. I know you really want to live. But I commend you anyway because I know that I wouldn't have the strength to stand against it if I were in a similar situation. Let's all just try to be safer.
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