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Stigma and Hysteria are Alive and Well in the Heartland

Surely you’ve read in numerous mainstream media reports that AIDS is now a “chronic, manageable” illness like diabetes or high cholesterol, thanks to advances in antiretroviral medications. Right. Consider the panic that hit Normandy High School in St. Louis last month when news spread that maybe — maybe — as many as 50 kids in the school might — might — have been exposed to HIV. Prom dates were cancelled. Parents from a different school worried that their football team shouldn’t play against Normandy. Yeah, that’s just how people would have responded if there had been an outbreak of diabetes at Normandy.

Astonishingly, the superintendent thought it necessary to send letters to 1,300 parents informing them the school was a possible cesspool of infection — despite the fact that the Department of Health had confirmed exactly one infection. “We weren’t trying to create mass hysteria and panic,” the superintendent protested to the New York Times — although short of setting Normandy on fire, it would be difficult to think of a more efficient way to create mass hysteria and panic. This chowderhead is in charge of a school?

And you wonder why the AIDS Legal Council wants to get rid of Illinois’s stupid requirement that schools be informed when their students test HIV-positive. You wonder why the AIDS Legal Council opposes the CDC’s recommendation that HIV testing be done “routinely,” without specific, written consent from patients.

If you want to read a good story about the incident, click here: http://www.nytimes.com/2008/11/09/us/09hiv.html?_r=1&partner=rssnyt&emc=rss

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