My First Impression
I. Growing Up II. What is AIDS? III. The Guessing Game IV. The Role of the Media V. Final Notes
I. Growing Up
Growing up in a closed-minded catholic family, I have never been exposed homosexuality, or anything that relates to that topic. My family never enjoyed talking anything that referred to sex in general; I have to say that I never got the “talk.” All of my friends told me how uncomfortable it was for them to sit through that talk, but I was never able to share my own story since they refused to talk to me. Since my family never spoke about this I learned what HIV and AIDS were until I was in my health class in the seventh grade that I learned what exactly this virus was. When I first heard of this condition I became extremely scared that something in this world could cause us to be so defenseless. Although I became scared, I also felt blessed that no one in my family (that I know of) has been affected by HIV. All throughout my childhood I had heard of the term gays or homosexuals, but I had not known what exactly this term meant. Whenever it would come up on television I would ask my parents why some of the guys in their soap-operas were acting like girls, and they would respond, “Ay mijo (oh son), they are acting like girls because they are crazy and can’t think straight. Also do not ever think like that because do you really want to be crazy?” So I grew up with this notion that homosexuals were crazy, but never did they tell me of the “disease that the gays produced.”
II. What is HIV/AIDS?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV is a virus that knocks out your immune system. This virus could be obtained through contact of the blood; this includes blood transfusions, sexual intercourse, sharing needles, and anything else that could make you come in contact with blood. HIV mainly targets the helper T cells and the macrophages. What this means is that there are no cells in the body to recognize the infected cells; thus, the killer T cells are useless because they do not know what to exterminate. One is considered to have acquired immune deficiency syndrome or AIDS when a person’s helper T-cells is measured to be less than two hundred T-cells per micro liter. On the other hand a normal person ranges from eight hundred to twelve hundred T-cells per micro liter. Once the immune system is rendered useless the individual is prone to contracting many different maladies. The common diseases that one can acquire, but not limited to are Kaposi’s sarcoma, diarrhea, toxoplasmosis and pneumocystis pneumonia. AIDS is not what kills the patient, but it is the reason why they get fatal illnesses.
III. Playing the Guessing Game
At the beginning of the course we were asked to guess the number of cumulative cases since 1980 in our hometown. Many had a general idea of the gravity of the problem. I, on the other hand, underestimated the number of cases in Santa Ana. I guessed that there were only about eleven cases, but in reality the actual number of cases in Santa Ana turned out to be 1,206. The reason why I believed that there is not a problem in Santa Ana is because Santa Ana is dominated by extremely Christian Mexicans. Never in my whole life would I have imagined that there would be so many homosexuals in Santa Ana. Just a few days ago I was conversing with a friend of mine from back home and his opinion was that the reason why there are not an abundant number of flamboyant homosexuals in Santa Ana is because of the fact that they are from Hispanic families. They dare not risk being ostracized and ridiculed by many, so instead they decide to “act straight” to avoid this negative attention. I am not saying that homosexual transmission is the sole cause of the epidemic; there are also people who have contracted the virus through needle sharing or anything of that sort, but the main mode of transmission are the homosexuals. Another reason why I guessed such low numbers was that there is not much media coverage in Orange County. Of course there are programs to make people aware of it, but those usually show up on Music Television (MTV), which most of today’s youth watch. Sometimes they show documentaries of teens or of young people with AIDS or other problems that are affecting the youth. These broadcasts, such as True Life or Think, are shown on MTV to make the youth of this country to me aware of AIDS. Although there wasn’t much coverage that specifically portrayed the problem in Orange County, I guessed that there really was not a problem in Santa Ana. Using these facts I guessed that there were a little less than twenty cases in Santa Ana. However, the data showed that the number of cases I guessed (11) was 109 times what I had guessed. Actually I found out that in all of Orange County, Santa Ana had the second highest rate, trailing Costa Mesa by about four cases (Table 1). The other interesting fact is that most of these cases were attained by men having sex with men (MSM). According to the data from The Center for Disease Control, which is shown below, one can see that out of the total male cases (5,628) 78% of them were transmitted by men having sex with men.
What is also interesting is that in California, only 74% of the AIDS cases are transmitted by MSM; this means that in Orange County there is higher rate of homosexual transmission. Consequently, the rate of transmission of AIDS for Santa Ana per 100,000 people came out to be about 357 whereas in all of the US the rate per 100,000 people came to be about 350. It is evident that there is a problem in Santa Ana since it’s above the national average; however, it is not a critical problem due to the fact that it is only slightly over the national average.
IV. The Role of the Media
Throughout my life, I never knew what AIDS truly was; it wasn’t until my seventh grade life science/ health class did I finally learn what AIDS was. I realize that the media did not do an excellent job of spreading the awareness of the epidemic. There would be movies or special programs that would discuss the issue, but it would do this at a national level not specific regions. I have never been the type of person to pick up a newspaper so I would not know specifically if there was an article at the time. However, when I searched through the Orange County Register I found no articles pertaining to HIV or AIDS. Since no articles were found in the Register, I decided to search through every single article that has been printed in The Los Angeles Times. This newspaper focused on news around the world, but there were only nine articles that pertained to Orange County. There was one article that did not necessarily talk about AIDS, but STDs in general. They said “The bilingual campaign is aimed at gay and bisexual men, African American women and Latinas, the groups most affected by the increase in sexually transmitted diseases.”1 This article specifically said that most of the sexually transmitted diseases came about because of the homosexuals. In another article it shined a different light on the topic. That article was promoting a fundraiser that was going to occur in Laguna Beach, which had one of the highest AIDS rates in Orange County. In this article they really tried to persuade people by saying “[Elizabeth] Taylor, pop star Michael Jackson and former British royal Sarah Ferguson are due at the Laguna Art Museum tonight to headline the Arts for AIDS fundraiser—and to remember Hudson [Rock].”2
The last relevant article spoke about how the state of California could potentially lose AIDS funding. “California counties that have recorded declining new AIDS cases are most at risking of losing funding, local officials said. Orange County stands to lose so much that its current annual $4.8 million in direct federal funding could drop below $1 million within five years.”3 First of all, this article announces really bad news for the AIDS patients, but at the same time it shows that the people truly care. The government might not care too much, since it wants to cut down the funds, but people in the media are compassionate enough to put this story in their paper. By doing this, hopefully a lot of people will also feel compassion for the AIDS patients and that they will somehow try to resolve this dilemma.
V. Ending Remarks
While Santa Ana has a problem with AIDS cases, there are many other places such as New York City or San Francisco that have twice or triple the amount of the national rate. In Orange County or at least in Santa Ana there are not a lot of displays, posters or anything of that sort to spread the awareness. Yet again, even if the people in Santa Ana became aware of this disease it would probably not change anything at all. Reasons for this is that there is a lot of homophobia in Santa Ana and a lot of people do not have the money to get the proper treatment.