Can HIV and AIDS be compared to mold? Apparently, there are some who seem to think it can.

During a discussion in class, the realization came to me how ignorant people are with regard to HIV and AIDS. The conversation was about if a realtor should or shouldn’t disclose to a home buyer that the previous owner died from AIDS.

As the conversation progressed, on student compared the disease to mold. I sat there wondering what logical, scientific and educational backing this particular individual had while trying to make this comparison. The conversation came to a quick close. No one was given the chance to respond to the unsettling comparison. The comment didn’t seem to faze a single person in that room.

A realtor is not required to disclose whether or not the owner of a property has any disease. It comes down to whether or not the company the realtor works for has a policy to do so.

Being openly gay myself, and living through the stigmas that are out there, the conversation of AIDS needs to come up. I would like to note I am not by any means infective with this disease, but I have friends who are affected directly by the disease.

HIV can be detected in several fluids and tissue of a person living with it. It is important to understand, however, that finding a small amount of HIV in a body fluid or tissue does not mean HIV is transmitted by that body fluid or tissue. Only specific fluids (blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk) from an HIV-infected person can transmit HIV.

These specific fluids must come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or be directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe) for transmission to possibly occur.

With that information given, this is a far cry from what was thought when people first came to know of HIV and AIDS, thinking it could be contracted by a simple touch of skin. The fear of taking a drink out of the same water fountain I would hope to be nonexistent.

More than 1.1 million people in the United States are living with HIV infection, and almost 1 in 5 (18.1 percent) are unaware of their infection. Heterosexuals accounted for 25 percent of estimated new HIV infections in 2010 and 27 percent of people living with HIV infection in 2009.

How do we get past that? What can we do to keep us from accepting those off-the-wall perceptions? Open dialogue needs to happen. Understanding can’t happen if we don’t talk about it. I would encourage people to get out and ask the questions.

There are forums and web pages you can go to. Check out UtahAIDS.com, the home page of the Utah AIDS Foundation. There you can find resources and information that could not only educate, but also help anyone who may need support. Our very own Center of Diversity and Unity, located in the Shepherd Union Building, has resources available to all students, regardless of background.

Thomas Jefferson stated, “He who knows nothing is closer to the truth than he whose mind is filled with falsehoods and errors.”

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