AIDS, or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome has been one of the most threatening diseases of the 20th century. Ever since it has been discovered in 1981, it has been constantly infecting men, women, adults, newly born children, homosexuals and heterosexuals. In definition AIDS is an extremely serious disorder that results from severe damage to the body's defense against disease. Even though AIDS was born in an era of sophisticated medical and surgical developments, it still remains incurable. The ways through which the HIV, Human Immunodeficiency Virus, can be transmitted are: blood transfusion, contaminated needles used in drug addiction, from an infected husband to his wife through sexual intercourse, or from an infected mother to her new born baby during pregnancy. Because it is that much spread and so far incurable, AIDS has aroused a lot hysterical fears and a number of controversies and ethical questions related to the patient's rights, doctor's rights and the right of the public at large.
While some people think that AIDS patients should be isolated in quarantines, alienated from the rest of the world, others find no reason in this harsh form of separation and discrimination against the infected patients. The patients must also have the right to lead a normal life that must be respected by all the public, and government too. Although AIDS is not more contagious than any other disease, its patients are suffering both social and medical discrimination, and that is not only unethical but could also cause an increase in the spread of the disease. The fact that AIDS is no more contagious than any other disease, makes the reasons behind the people's fear of AIDS totally illogical. All people are thinking of is that it's a deadly virus, but there is a lot more to know about AIDS than this.
People must be more educated about this virus and how it may be transmitted in order to protect themselves and avoid their constant paranoia about AIDS patients. AIDS, unlike many diseases, is not transmitted by shaking hands, or through coughs, or by swimming in the same pool with an HIV positive. It has also been proven that even the exposure to body fluids such as saliva through deep kissing wouldn't transmit the virus. This is because the HIV is found to be very weak in open air; it can easily be killed by ordinary household disinfectants (Kelly 33-34). In a study conducted by Friedland in 1986, he studied one hundred and one men and women who were caring for 41 AIDS patients and engaged in all forms of contact with them.
They helped AIDS patients with many details in their daily life like bathing, dressing, eating, and sharing toilets, bath and kitchen. The study has proven that daily interaction with AIDS patients doesn't put others at a high risk of infection (Kelly 34-35). Compared to other diseases, like hepatitis B, the risk of developing AIDS is lower under similar conditions. For example, the risk of AIDS transmission through needless is " not more than 0.9% while risk of hepatitis B is 17% (Reamer 194).
Therefore, there are no scientifically grounded reasons for the hysterical attitudes and panicky overreactions towards AIDS patients. However, despite these facts, AIDS patients still suffer a lot of discrimination and rejection by a society which affects the patient's social, physical and psychological aspects of life. HIV positives suffer a lot of discrimination from the public at large, as well as receive harsh attitudes and maltreatment, disrespecting their pride and that they are humans who still have some rights. Once they are labeled as AIDS patients, they lose their jobs, rented apartments, and many other social services; in addition, they become rejected by the family circles and friends and even expelled from schools or universities. Unfortunately, these changes don't only affect the patients but they expand to further affect their children's lives, if there were any. Andrea Walton, who is a 48-year-old married woman, got infected with the HIV through a blood transfusion, in 1981, after she was married.
As soon as she found out about her condition, she was divorced and forced to leave her work. "It's difficult being a women with AIDS", she says, "we don't have networking. We are ostracized and isolated" ('AIDS the next ten years' 27). Andrea Walton was obliged to uphold social isolation in addition to her physical pain. It is not her only, for she is one of many examples of the constant discrimination suffered by the AIDS patients.
Another example was a reported incident concerning infected children in New York, where some people set fire to a foster home dedicated to unfortunate infants with AIDS (Gost in 81). It is obvious that shame and discrimination are the two feelings that HIV patients unwillingly will have to face within their society. As Andrew Basket stated in the film 'Philadelphia,' AIDS enforces on its victims "social death which proceeds the actual physical death". These inhumane social attitudes are always justified as normal attitudes towards a fatal disease, especially when not enough when not enough is known about this disease or its method of transmission among the public. However, this gives little excuse for doctors, physicians and nurses who are enlightened enough about the nature of the illness and its mode of transmission, and yet are equally discriminatory in their treatment to AIDS.
AIDS patients also face discriminatory treatment from physicians and medical people. They are being forbidden to get the right health care that includes both physicians treatment and medical insurance. Many physicians refuse to treat patients with AIDS because of fear of infection. Some do not even treat patients with negative antibody response for they are afraid of being close to a high risk infection group. Apart from fear of getting the virus, physicians fear losing their careers. Patients would also be very cautious in going to that doctor so as not to get infected from the contaminated tools he uses with AIDS patients, or even from sitting beside them in the waiting room (Reamer 204).
As a result, doctors avoid receiving AIDS patients in their clinics. This leaves the HIV patient with no other choice except the forced quarantines, which isolates him from this cruel society until his death (Reamer 34). As for medical insurance companies, just like any other business, they seek profit as their very most important goal. Since the treatment of AIDS is rather expensive, they are found to be of a high cost to the company, and that's why HIV patients cannot apply for medical insurance. Even people who work in companies with covered medical insurance, lose it when they leave their jobs because of their illness (Reamer 116). Therefore, such discrimination by both physicians and insurance companies are indeed unjust and unethical.
Discrimination against HIV positives is considered unethical for it is a violation of the principles of the medical profession. It is the obligation of every doctor to treat the patient whether his illness is dangerous and contagious or not. This obligation doesn't allow the doctor to act according to his fears or uncertainties. Apart from being unethical, this discrimination does lots of injustice because it can victimize innocent people. It is very frequent that people get infected through blood transfusion or as a newborn. In either case the patients had no control over their infection unlike getting the virus from drug needles or unprotected sexual intercourse.
It has been stated that "approximately 5% of the current AIDS patients do not belong to risk groups" (Kelly 27). Therefore by discriminating against all AIDS patients on the basis of being infected people, we are misjudging those who are victims of this disease. Another effect of discrimination against AIDS patients is that it helps the spread of the disease. First of all, people know that AIDS is going to affect not only them but their families and that they will lose not only their health but also their jobs, insurance, home and friends if they get the disease. And so people will be afraid of testing to find out if they are infected or not, and if they are infected, they will be scared to announce it in order to avoid discrimination and isolation by the society. In fact "it was declared that those infected with AIDS are less dangerous in the spread of the disease than the hundreds who are infected but not identified" (Kelly 96).
This means having the threat of the increase of undetected AIDS patients who may spread the virus out of their ignorance, frustration, or revenge from the discriminating society. In conclusion, we can say that it is very important to drop "the myths and myths information about the fear that is associated with AIDS" (Fleming 3). If we can fulfill then that this AIDS could be easily contaminated. To reduce the discrimination against the HIV patient, educational campaigns should be done to enlighten the public about proper and safer protection against the virus. Physicians must also receive proper training to be able to deal with AIDS patients, and to be reminded that their ethical responsibilities should take priority over personal fears.
It's evident that AIDS patients have been constantly facing social and medical discrimination, and this can only be solved by combining the efforts of the public, physicians and AIDS patients too.