The Environmental Contexts of AIDS

The Environmental Contexts of AIDS

The Environmental Contexts of AIDS

The Environmental Contexts of AIDS

Synopsis

This text presents realistic approaches to the prevention of HIV infection by looking at health and behavior from an environmental perspective. The text demonstrates that health cannot be separated from the "total" environment if we are to be effective in planning for health and HIV prevention. The view of AIDS as simply a bio-medical problem is challenged and individual responsibility for health is enlarged. Those making decisions about HIV prevention need to respond to and attempt to understand complex social and cultural issues like sexuality, drug use, and alternative lifestyles to be effective.

Excerpt

Disease is terrifying; we tend not to think of it as normal. Yet we all live with our assorted aches and pains; we adjust, or adjust to, our environmental circumstances to cope with headaches, ulcers, cancer, diabetes, heart disease, and accidental injury. We accept the risk associated with driving on busy expressways or commercial flying; we work in crowded, polluted cities; we build our homes next to nuclear generating stations; we eat food we know contains ingredients or additives that might be harmful to our health; we drink; we make love. We do many things that affect our health because of, or in spite of, family, friends, school, church, or government. Our health and our environment are mutually dependent systems.

My interest in writing this book was prompted by the almost universal puzzlement that aids had anything to do with environment. When I spoke to individuals about the disease, their response was almost inevitably that the virus had a special affinity for gays and injection drug users. Their "bad habits" were responsible for aids. Few people thought of the virus as a biological entity, like us just another part of nature. Somehow, the human immunodeficiency virus took on a special life of its own. aids became synonymous with a perceived lifestyle rather than with the ecology of disease.

Having recently lost a family member to cancer, I was perhaps sensitive to a more inclusive view of health and illness. the experience was painful, frustrating, sorrowful, terrifying, and, paradoxically, rewarding. I had learned that while we all think we try to live a "healthy" life, the definition is always open to interpretation. I discovered health and disease were topics full of controversy and politics. aids was a viral entity, yet it was never spoken of as a normal part of the biological world. aids was different. aids was going to be the end of civilization as we knew it; it was the just reward for those who choose to live . . .

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