IMG 2121 HIV Palooza
Written by Guest Writer Michael Russo
Hello again. I have returned to discuss something that is truly shocking, and something I was not completely aware of until I actively researched the topic:  teenage HIV in the United States.  Check this out: Behavioral scientists are presently researching the adverse effects of growing up in an anti-gay environment.  Through garnishing information from surveys they have discovered that gay individuals that were abused, mentally and physically, were more likely to have unprotected sex and acquire HIV.  Bullying and HIV – no one would have ever thought that 2 seemingly separate concepts share a direct correlation.
While we are discussing unprotected sex and gay individuals – I would like to delve into the topic of gay youth and unprotected sex. No one “gets off” easily with this article.  FACT: 3.4 million children UNDER 15 years old and 5 million people 15-24 years old were living with HIV in 2010. One-third of all new HIV infections are among people aged 15-24. Globally, AIDS is the second most common cause of death among 20-24 years old.
That’s pretty damn scary and throughout all my medical education I never heard this.  This is the next generation.  They need guidance and protection (literally) if they are ever going to make it in this world. So young and afflicted with a disease that will one day cut their lives short because let’s face it, the medication for HIV destroys your body, not HIV and AIDS.  It is only a matter of time until your body cannot handle these toxic substances.
I am really terrified because there are so many venues that enable this predisposition to have unprotected sex.  If one is having a bad day, all they would have to do is go online and in seconds they will be able to find what they are looking for – and that is trouble.  I do not have to say the websites for everyone knows what I am talking about.  Substance abuse and alcohol are also a huge factor that makes one take this terrible plunge and there are predators out there just waiting in the wings to attack (another scary thought).  It is also the product of POOR JUDGEMENT.  We have these teenagers going to clubs and somehow getting in to 21+ venues and somehow being served alcohol (and God knows what else).
Instead of judging these young lost individuals, people need to open their eyes and offer all their support (whatever they can do) because it will ultimately lead to this generation’s demise if they do not. All of the aforementioned may seem obvious but you know what? It’s reality.
aids 300x225 HIV Palooza
I feel as a student nurse I have a moral obligation to educate.  We hear about “HIV” and “AIDS” but what do we know about it?  ”Oh yeah, it breaks down and destroys the immune system.”  In the simplest definition, that does a subpar job of explaining this terrible disease.  HIV and AIDs are not separate entities either.  Being “HIV positive” means at some point in the not-too-distant future you will have AIDS (a guarantee).
I want to take the time to explain this disease in the most simplest way I can so others can spread the message and educate others.  That is where I feel we are lacking – with awareness.  It is not enough to know it kills the immune system.  If you have someone in your life who is walking down this road, it is CRUCIAL that you are able to explain the effects of what happens when this disease is acquired.  Then maybe because of YOU and your efforts, you will have saved them from a very difficult and painful life.
So we have this immune system. We all know the immune system protects us from cancers, viruses, bacterial infections and allergic reactions.  We have cells in our bodies called macrophages.  Macrophages (which have a special “physiological” marker on them called CD4) are responsible for searching the body for these aforementioned foreign substances. They eat and process them. This processing must take place because they break these substances up into little proteins that it then presents to something called a “T-cell receptor” (of a T-helper cell which also have a CD4 marker). T-cells are responsible for getting the whole immune process up and running. HIV invades and destroys both macrophages and T-cells (it has a selectivity towards CD4 cells). From this presentation of the protein to the T-cell, the T-cell has all the information to tell the body what the foreign substance is and the body can fight it accordingly. Without these T-cells, we are in trouble. That is what happens with HIV and why there is such a lag period between the time of acquiring it and when one gets AIDS and starts rapidly debilitating. Once HIV enters the macrophages or T-cells, it uses its most deadly weapon – something referred to as REVERSE TRANSCRIPTASE (and the reason for the drugs called reverse transcriptase inhibitors). This is quite the weapon to have in one’s arsenal. Our DNA is usually made into an intermediate known as RNA and then that RNA is used to make protein. This is the normal order of things. With HIV, it takes its own viral RNA and makes it into viral DNA and then incorporates into our own human DNA!  Completely changes everything.  And it starts this vicious cycle that ultimates creates more viruses and destroys more cells…until there is no more.  This is why you’ll often hear about “T-Cell Counts.”  It is basically how far the disease has gone in its journey of destroying the immune system. Do you agree that this definition is simple after reading everything?
T-cell counts determine when a person has AIDS. A healthy individual can be anywhere between 600-1200 but the diagnosis of AIDS is made when the T-cell counts plummet below 200. Below the 600 mark, people become victim to opportunistic infections such as candida and cytomegalovirus (to name a few).
This is some serious stuff and should not be taken lightly.  The most important we can do is spread the word of this terrible disease.  Besides urging everyone to use protection (above all), we need to take another big step and teach others because it will ultimately trickle down.  And at the end of the day, this is the most important goal. Please?

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Written by Michael

Michael is a graduate nurse, a Queens native and now lives in LA with Adam and the puppy. He keeps his boyfriend on track updating this site. Talk to him about medicine, Mariah Carey or whatever on Twitter @Miggs6686. To read more finger-wagging opinion & gay news, check out Stay On Fountain’s e-book: A Look at the Great Gay Tipping Point”.