Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, Supplement - Vol. 7

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, Supplement - Vol. 7

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, Supplement - Vol. 7

Encyclopedia of Multiculturalism, Supplement - Vol. 7

Excerpt

The AIDS Virus. Two strains of HIV, which is believed to be responsible for AIDS, have been identified: HIV-1 and HIV-2. The identification of an AIDS virus was found to be a means of identifying persons most likely to develop AIDS through blood-testing. A detailed study of the blood of people with AIDS found low white blood cell counts, particularly the helper T-cell. T-cells are special white blood cell lymphocytes that the body needs to ward off infections and dangerous microbes, such as bacteria, viruses, and parasites. To diagnose AIDS in patients, health practitioners generally rely on both positive tests indicating exposure to the HIV virus and low T-cell counts, along with knowledge of the patients' at-risk behaviors. Within months of the first medical observations of AIDS involving gay men during the early 1980's, physicians diagnosed AIDS as occurring most frequently among persons who used IV drugs and among Haitian people. The exposure to AIDS of gay men was explained by their sexual behavior; among IV drug users the disease was spread by sharing of needles or use of needles that had not been disinfected. However, no specific behavior or medical need explained the high incidence of AIDS among Haitians. The scientific community could not offer a reason why being Haitian seemed to be a risk factor, even though less than 5 percent of reported AIDS victims were Haitians. Nevertheless, “Haitian” became synonymous with AIDS in the minds of many Americans as the news media tried to find a Haitian origin of the disease. There was much speculation as to why AIDS was found in Haiti. The fact that the Republic of Haiti, a poverty-stricken, non-English-speaking black nation, was publicly targeted as a scapegoat for the spread of AIDS suggests that racism and nationalism may have been operating. Some scholars of race and inequality speculated that the targeting of Haitians (and later Africans) was in response to intense and violent antihomosexual sentiments in the United States. As the homosexual community mobilized to combat AIDS, they turned to the government for action and appealed for public awareness. Discovery of an external source for the origin of AIDS had the effect of enabling gay AIDS sufferers to be redefined as victims and not producers of the disease. When scientists and government officials began interviewing Haitian AIDS victims in the their own language, they found that these victims in fact belonged to one or the other of the high-risk behavior groups. This finding led to the removal of Haitians from the U.S. government list as risk factors for AIDS. Testing for HIV. In 1985 a blood test called ELISA (enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay) became available to detect blood exposed to the AIDS virus. This and other confirmatory tests, such as the Western blot test, have been called AIDS tests; however, they do not actually test for AIDS. The ELISA and the Western blot tests merely confirm the presence of HIV antibodies, and not the virus itself. The results of this kind of testing served to create a new category of people: those who have tested positive for HIV antibodies. Otherwise healthy and asymptomatic persons who tested positive for HIV antibodies were suddenly perceived as “sick.” Inadequate understanding of AIDS testing has contributed to misconceptions and myths regarding how HIV/AIDS is transmitted. Testing merely establishes a person's HIV antibody status; it does not replace safer sexual practices, such as using condoms. Having a new sexual partner tested does not reduce a person's risk of exposure to HIV/AIDS if that person continues to practice high-risk behaviors. Moreover, persons who test positive may find themselves discriminated against because of misconceptions regarding the transmission of AIDS. Research has shown that among persons with and without HIV/AIDS such casual contact as hugging, kissing on the cheek, and shaking hands; sharing beds, toilets, baths, or showers; or using the same eyeglasses, dishes, water fountains, and doorknobs does not lead to catching the disease. The virus cannot penetrate normal, unbroken skin and it is not airborne. It cannot be passed through simple physical interaction. Women of Color and AIDS. Nonwhite women in the United States have a long history of disenfranchi.sement, marginalization, and POVERTY. Those who have contracted HIV/AIDS have tended to rely on family members for help more than on other services. Use of formal health care services is closely associated with health insurance coverage, which many minority women do not have. Many HIV/AIDS sufferers have consequently died for lack of treatment. By contrast, white males with HIV/AIDS who do not use IV drugs have had higher rates of outpatient health services . . .
Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.