Middle Schoolers learn about AIDS
Monday was World AIDS Day, and Carson Valley Middle School 9th graders had the opportunity to listen to two victims of the terminal disease talk about effects, causes and their own personal accounts.
Health teacher Karen Green said speakers from Frontline come every semester to CVMS and Pau-Wa-Lu to talk about AIDS. That the school was lucky enough to have them come on World AIDS Day was coincidence.
It’s important for students to hear people, other than parents or teachers, talk about the reality of AIDS , Green said.
“It’s really important they hear other guest speakers share their experiences,” she said.
The speakers were Matthew Cokor and Susan McDonald, both who have been diagnosed with AIDS for more than 10 years. Cokor said an addiction to alcohol led to him having unprotected sex, which resulted in him getting AIDS. McDonald said an addiction to heroin and the use of infected needles led to her getting the disease.
Both talked about their early experiences with AIDS, when the disease was relatively unfamiliar to the general public.
McDonald said when she first contracted AIDS it was called Gay Related Immune Deficiency.
“I said this does not apply to me,” she said. “I’m not gay.”
Cokor said in 1982, when originally diagnosed, he was given two years to live. Three years later, still healthy, he thought the doctors had been wrong and had an HIV antibody test. He did have AIDS.
“Some people are infected one year and dead the next,” Cokor said. “Some people are like the Energizer Bunny and just keep on going. I was one of those.”
Both speakers talked about the slow, negative effects AIDS has had on their heath and lives. Cokor said, without periodic medical shots, his energy-depleted body is not able to complete the simplest tasks, such as cleaning his house or cooking a meal.
“It (having AIDS) is not an easy life,” McDonald said, “not an easy life at all, but it happens. The good thing is you don’t have to get it.”
The five fluids which transfer the AIDS virus are blood, semen, vaginal fluid, pre-ejaculation and mother’s breast milk. People used to get AIDS from blood transfusions, but that is not likely now because the blood is tested. Now, according to the speakers, unsafe needle usage and unprotected sex are the common ways to get the disease. Even body piercing and tattoos, if done with unclean instruments, could spread the infection.
McDonald encouraged the students to go to a professional, sterile atmosphere if they are going to get tattoos or body piercing. She also said the students should abstain from having sex, and, if they didn’t, at least use a condom.
“If you guys do choose to have sex, I suggest you learn how to use a latex condom first,” she said. “They aren’t 100 percent safe, though – abstinence is.”
Green said she is thankful the speakers come to the middle schools. She said it is good for students 15 and 16 years old to see risk behaviors – such as using alcohol and drugs, and having unsafe sex – can lead to contracting the virus.
Cokor and McDonald spoke to five classes Monday, and they said they are happy to have the opportunity to be able to try to help students.
“I think it gives us purpose,” Cokor said. “It gives us reason. We’re dedicated to this, contributing our time and energy. And it does take a lot of energy.”
An estimated 30 million people are infected worldwide, and approximately 16,000 people are infected every day. Forty million children a year lose a parent to AIDS, the speakers said.