It’s been over twenty-five years since we first learned about AIDS. And the ugliness still exists. I think I saw it at work this week.
“Just so you know, they’re HIV positive,” she whispers to me.
I don’t know why she’s told me this. There was no risk to either of us. I’m not going to be working with their blood. I’m not having sex with the customer. We deal with customers who have far more aggressive – and more contagious – diseases, and she never bothers to tell me about them. We deal with customers with other incurable blood-borne diseases, like hepatitis, and she never says a word.
This shouldn’t be a misunderstanding about the disease vector – professionally, she has to know how it’s transmitted.
I’ve been thinking about this for a few days, and I still don’t understand why this was even mentioned. At least, I hope I don’t understand.
There’s lots of ways that people can get bloodborne pathogens. Casual contact – like I was going to have with the customer – isn’t one of them. Being infected isn’t a stigma or a sign of anything…but I’m left with the uncomfortable possibility that her “warning” was supposed to be a stand-in for stigmatizing some other “unacceptable” behavior. Or is it still just left-over hysteria about the disease itself?
I didn’t say anything to her, though I wish I had. The customer was in the next room, and could have easily overheard a normal conversation. I certainly didn’t want to embarrass the customer for something stupid and possibly bigoted that someone else said.
Perhaps I’m over-reacting. Perhaps she was being overcautious, and thought she was doing her job properly.
I don’t know. And now that it’s not in that situation, now that it’s been a couple of days, I really don’t know what to do.
Here’s a US-centric brief history of the timeline of AIDS. The NIH researchers remember back to those early days of AIDS, and tell their stories. And AVERT has lots of information about HIV/AIDS, a global timeline, and ways for you to help fight the pandemic.