Medical Issues Class Learns About HIV

By Emerald Cazeau ‘15

Photos of people of all ages, both male and female, with swollen glands in their necks and groin, protruding ribs due to the wasting of their muscles, and nodules covering their body, are shown one after the other. Gasps and grunts follow each new picture presented.

“I am not here for your comfort,” said Mr. Collin Nelson to his period four medical issues class. “I am here to save your life.”

Mr. Nelson began the introduction of his annual H.I.V project to his spring semester Medical Issues classes. He displayed images and documentaries of H.I.V patients and their life styles. He also showcased the determinants of this disease in economic, social, and medical areas.

After a one week period of this presentation, Mr. Nelson successfully discredited some stereotypes regarding the disease.

“A common stereotype of H.I.V is that it can be contracted through kissing, or even touching,” said Jennifer Charles ’15. “This class teaches you it’s not true. It would take liters of saliva to transfer the disease to someone else.”

In addition to differentiating between myths and facts about the disease, all three classes are expected to conduct research of the virus in particular countries in Africa. They are instructed to form groups and collect and present information on how H.I.V has affected their assigned country.

The students’ presentations follow the one conducted by Mr. Nelson. He used various sources to find the history, determinants, prominence, incidence, and intervention methods of the disease in Guyana, South America. Likewise, the groups utilized the same sources to collect this information on their given countries.

Some students said that though it was a lot of research, the assignment was worth it.

“It gave me more knowledge on diseases and how it impacts other places, said Kimoi Felmine ’16.  “There’s a lot you can take away from this.”

It shocked her that some women have no power in Mali, the country she was assigned, so they have no choice in their health. She believes that since we have a choice, we should make sure we prevent ourselves from getting H.I.V.

Similarly, in Namibia, gender was a main factor in the spread of the disease.

Anna Troung ’16 stated that women are shown to more likely get assaulted and are sometimes victims of rapes from H.I.V infected males while presenting the determinants of the virus in the country.

Troung ‘16 said that wife inheritance, a cultural practice common throughout Africa, aids in the distribution of the disease as well. The practice consists of brothers receiving the wives of their deceased brother as their own.

Troung ‘16 said, “It’s dangerous if the dead brother has HIV/AIDS.”

If the deceased man had the disease, having infected his wife, she can infect his brother who could spread the disease to the wives he may already have.

In other countries, gender inequality was not the predominant determinant. In South Africa, for example, the racial tensions that continued after apartheid drove the disease in the country.

Jerry Lu ’16 stated during his presentation that low income and education also contributed to the lack of knowledge of the virus. It likewise impeded prevention methods such as the implementation of contraceptive usage in the country.

Medical Issues emphasizes this project, and the problems affecting the medical field that are greatly impacting our society.

In the previous semester Mr. Nelson’s classes debated the controversy of whether abortions should be legalized nation-wide. The debates, like the class, required students to use credible reasoning from ethical standard, political cases, religious beliefs, and social practices to support their opinions.

Mr. Nelson explained that he thinks it is important that you must be able to challenge existing philosophies that are not supported by knowledge.

He frequently tells his students that they may not want to hear what he has to say at times, but it is the truth.

“Knowledge of these things may save their lives and prevent them from contracting diseases,” Mr. Nelson said.

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