HIV awareness

Brendan Smyth, Staff Writer

Every three days someone in Nebraska is infected with HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus. You are not immune. What can you do to keep yourself safe from this deadly disease?

HIV destroys certain kinds of white blood cells that fight infection. As HIV progresses, more and more of these cells are destroyed, making it harder for your immune system to fight off the infection. When you lose enough of these cells, it can be deadly to someone with advanced HIV, your official diagnosis changes to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. “I don’t think a lot of people are aware of the dangers that this can cause. It is a subject that people don’t always like to talk about, but it needs to be addressed,” said Christin Woockman, a case manager at the Nebraska AIDS Project (NAP).

Between 20 and 25 percent of US college students are, or have been, infected with an STD, which includes HIV. The main reason why these numbers are so high are the lack of knowledge that students have on the subject. Luckily with the help of Woockman and her colleagues, they go around colleges educating students on the dangers of HIV and protection. Some of the factors that can speed up HIV’s progression into AIDS include: poor nutrition, stress, overall poor health and age.

A little about the Nebraska AIDS Project, it was organized in 1984 when medical professionals, Catholic nuns, Health Department officials and loved ones, joined together for one cause fighting HIV and AIDS. NAP provides services for over 1,000 clients and their families annually. NAP has 5 offices in Nebraska and serves the entire state, as well as 22 counties in Iowa and Wyoming. They have locations in Omaha, Lincoln, Norfolk, Kearney and Scottsbluff.

HIV can be transmitted by sexual contact, sharing needles to inject drugs, mother to baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. It is not transmitted by air, water, saliva, sweat, tears, insects, pests, sharing toilets, food, or drinks. Without treatment, HIV can make a person very sick and can even cause death. Leaning the basics about HIV can keep you healthy and prevent transmission. You only have one body, and one bad decision could change your entire future.