AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) affects all parts of the country both as a disease and as a stigma. AIDS became more noticeable around the time of the sexual revolution and became a full blown epidemic around the ‘80s.
According to Medical News Today, AIDS is a disease caused by HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). The AIDS virus acts as a “Trojan Horse” by taking over a cell. Once this cell has been overcome with the virus it fuses and connects with other cells, which in turn spread the virus to other cells, explains Dr. Harold Katner.
The illness affects only humans and does so by altering the immune system. This makes people more vulnerable to other infections and diseases. Susceptibility worsens with the progression of the disease.
The virus is passed from one person to the next through bodily fluids. HIV and AIDS are incurable. There are medications that can help individuals suffering from the disease but medication is unable to completely eliminate the virus from their system and can cost up to $36,000 a year.
As the last lecture in a series of Mercer University’s First Year Friday lectures, Katner delivered the lecture “The Many Faces of AIDS.” His lecture included graphic images and true stories of AIDS patients he has treated in the Macon area.
Student Sam Strickland attended the lecture and commented that “[AIDS] is prevalent everywhere, but according to the lecture especially in the Macon community. It is a very real threat that demands our attention.”
“Bibb County has some of the highest rates in Georgia. Dublin has the highest rate in Georgia outside of Atlanta. So this is a not an uncommon infection,” shares Katner during the lecture he gave Sept. 27.
Freshman student, Sam Tarleton, explains that the “Fact is, people are having sex. We all need to be safe when we make the decision to have sex to prevent getting or spreading the disease.” Katner is helping the Macon area as well as Mercer students by helping treat the disease as well as by providing education.
Katner spoke of the stigma that is associated with HIV and AIDS. The stigma causes coping with the illness to be more difficult for people as they come to terms and manage living with HIV. The stigma also interferes with their attempts to fight HIV and AIDS. Katner described when he worked as an AIDS doctor in a hospital, and how the hospital did not like having him because of the reputation and association the hospital had for employing a doctor that dealt with such a stigmatic disease.
“Though it is a horrible disease, just because someone has it doesn’t make them less than a person. So many people [create] the stigma that people infected with AIDS are dirty and gross. So many normal people have it and live with it on a daily basis,” says Tarleton.
AIDS is not just a distant threat; it is a threat that impacts the area in and around Macon.
As Katner concluded his speech, he reminded listeners “we can stop this… stop it [by] protect[ing] yourself, educate your family and friends.” Education and awareness are able to help with prevention and treatment of the disease.