Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

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When I was twenty-three years old I was very sick. I was very weak and could not breathe well. I was coughing constantly. My own diagnosis was eigher tuberculosis or bronchitis. I spent four or five months waiting for the symptoms to go away without medical supervison or advice, but they would not. Things got so bad, I finally swallowed my arrogance and pride and went to a doctor to ask for help (many men consider asking for help a "sign of weakness," since we should be independant, strong, and self-reliant).

The doctor tested me for tuberculosis and bronchitis, among other things (this was before HMOs, when doctors still looked after the health and well-being of the people who pay thier salaries). When I was being examined by the doctor, he asked me what my symptoms were. I told him. Coughing uncontrollably; extreme fatigue; night sweats; ears "ringing;" difficulty breathing. Then the doctor asked me a very strange question. He asked me if I had a girlfriend living in San Francisco, or if I had been up there in the past year or two.

I couldn't imagine what in the world this had to do with my being sick. I told him that yes, I had a "pen-pal" who lived in San Jose (which is south of San Francisco) and that I had visited her (and her mother, father, and horse) a few months before my falling ill. The doctor asked nothing else, and gave me a prescription for antibiotics, which I promptly filled.

Two weeks later I was at my normal level of health. The tests the doctor performed for tuberculosis and bronchitis came up negative.

"Some people afflicted with AIDS will feel a sense of anger and others a sense of guilt. In spite of these understandable reactions, everyone must join the effort to control the epidemic, to provide for the care of those with AIDS, and to do all we can to inform and educate other about AIDS, and how to prevent it." -- C. Everett Koop, M.D., Sc.D. Surgeon General
It was many years later before I heard about Aquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). AIDS was not well-known at the time I went to see that doctor. (I think the disease was news to him, too.) I eventually figured out why the doctor asked me about "a girlfriend in San Francisco."

I am quite happy to report that I free from AIDS. I engage in none of the behaviors that make people at risk for aquiring the retrovirus thought to induce AIDS (HIV: A retrovirus that causes AIDS. HIV was formerly known as HTLV-III.).

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