Preventing the AIDS Virus

World Health Organization presents global effort to stop AIDS

The 1980’s. The time where innovation shaped us. New technology has changed the way we live our normal lives. We were able to play video games in our own home, we were allowed to have pagers and, if we were lucky, had our very first home computers. However, technology has not only made our lives cooler but it made us aware of bigger problems that have plagued parts of the United States of America.

Described as a health disaster of epic pandemic proportions, the federal government officially acknowledged the AIDS epidemic in 1982 and in-between the years that followed there was a negative outcry against people with AIDS. Many HIV-Positive citizens were bashed and banished from their favorite everyday spots. In fact, children with HIV/AIDS were told to stop coming to school and were forced to kept at home, contained within the confines of their room. This was most famously portrayed by Indiana teenager Ryan White, who was banned from school, primarily to prevent the newly discovered disease from spreading to other vulnerable youth.  

In December 1984, Ryan White was diagnosed with the AIDS virus following a blood transfusion at birth. He was one of the first hemophiliac kids to come down with the newly discovered disease. Many of his personal doctors gave him only three to six months to live, however he managed to stay alive for nearly six years. After about a year and a half of dealing with this shocking news and the precautions placed on by the Center for Disease Control (CDC), Ryan was eager to return to school. Instead of being greeted by his childhood friends and a loving community, Ryan White was welcomed with insults and cruelty amongst the older parents. Due to the intense backlash and constant nationwide media coverage, Ryan and his mother moved to Cicero, Indiana where they were accepted and supported. 

Ryan became the poster child for public education about the virus and being a hemophiliac throughout the rest of the 80’s. Even though he lived longer than most doctors expected, Ryan White succumbed to his disease on Apr. 8, 1990 at the age of 18. In honor of his memory, the Ryan White Comprehensive AIDS Resources Emergency (CARE) Act was passed and enacted in August 1990. The act essentially improved the quality and availability of care for medically deserving parents and families that are affected by HIV/AIDS.

Just like Ryan, people from the HIV/AIDS community all over the world faced embarrassment from their fellow healthier peers. It wouldn’t be until Nov. 20, 1986 when the World Health Organization announced their first global effort to combat the growing AIDS virus. Some of the points for this program consist of developing medical strategies for combating AIDS, providing a framework among researchers to share information with regular citizens regarding the disease and creating a far more aggressive drug, vaccine, and other therapeutic practices.  One of the main points of the first global initiative was for inexpensive blood tests around the world to detect infection to unaware victims. However, reports showed that these experimental blood tests were not as effective as one may have hoped. With a financial backing of approximately five million dollars from the United States, Sweden, Norway and the United Kingdom’s government, a lot was riding on the success of this first global combat to fight HIV/AIDS. 

Not to mention, there was a lot of criticism surrounding the World Health Organization in regards to the lack of efficacy of trying to containing this widespread disease before it got out of hands. In response, the World Health Organization blamed other countries for ignoring the problem when it first arrived in their respective country throughout the early 80’s. 

In the modern 21st Century, there is still this sense of blaming others and failing to take responsibility for our mistakes. Looking at the grander scale of things, the world has transformed into this personalized and subjective realm in which can be altered and manipulated for the better and for the worse. Most of the news and content that we receive on a daily basis can always be subjected for debate. There is material out on the internet that blurs the line between safe and family-oriented to the risque and for mature audiences. We have some of the best technology at the tip of our fingers, such as iPhones and social media platforms that we not only use to our advantage, but use to promote, engage and assist the young adults in HIV/AIDS prevention domestically and globally The real breakthrough came with the creation of antiretroviral therapies (ARTs) in the 1990s. ARTs modify the HIV/AIDS strains within the human body by directly attacking the virus and preventing its rapid reproduction. They also improve the immune system’s ability to fight off infections and other HIV-induced diseases.

While we are still creating, innovating and changing the game when it comes to HIV/AIDS, there are still citizens that struggle with this disease primarily due to financial costs. As we all know, there is still no solution to the HIV/AIDS Virus. However throughout its thirty plus year reign of killing humans, it’s been proven time after time that when we, as a nation, come together and beat the odds, it becomes a monumental win for those affected and one step closer to the cure.

~Elijah Williams, Staff Writer~

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