In 2019, there were 15,815 deaths among adults and adolescents with diagnosed HIV in the United States. This is unacceptable. With COVID-19 taking over headlines since early 2020, the past 22 months have represented the first period of time in decades in which the advice and guidance of public health experts have taken center stage for such an extended period of time.
While many of us, rightfully so, are so caught up in the statistics and precautions resulting from COVID-19, it is important to remember that the coronavirus is not the only epidemic we are still combating in America; AIDS/HIV can be just as dangerous and upsetting as COVID-19, though in different ways. Because the forefront of the public health focus is on COVID-19, we as a school are not doing enough to educate students on the importance of protecting themselves from HIV. The severity and potential consequences of the disease make this lack of education unacceptable.
For those of you who are unaware, HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. It is spread by contact with certain bodily fluids of a person with HIV, most commonly during unprotected sex, or sex without a condom or HIV medicine to prevent or treat HIV. HIV can also be spread through sharing drug injection equipment. If HIV is not treated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome).
By providing sexual health education, health services, and safe and supportive school environments for all students, we can make a difference and help end the HIV epidemic. Although there is an uptick in HIV education in schools, there are still almost 16,000 HIV deaths per year, all of which are preventable because we have the resources necessary.
The only time Haverford students are educated on HIV/AIDS is during a brief unit of health class in Form IV, a class that the current Fifth Formers did not even take due to last year’s schedule change. We encourage students, faculty, staff, and the administration to remember that there are other public health concerns aside from COVID-19, and we must continue to stay vigilant and informed.