AIDS awareness

Positive results for an HIV or AIDS test does not mean someone is a “bad person,” said counselors who help people infected with the disease.

“Sometimes good people do bad things and bad things happen to them,” said John Hamilton, the operations manager of Shisa Inc., a Tallahassee-based organization specifically for testing and counseling those living with Human Immunodeficiency Virus or the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Shisa, in cooperation with the FAMU Golden Key International Honour Society, will be on campus today for confidential HIV/AIDS testing in the Embassy Room.

Hamilton said many people fear knowing their positive or negative status because of society stigmas placed on the disease.

“Five years ago, if people learned that they had the virus, they would start writing their eulogies,” he said. “But with the advancements they’ve done with medicines, you can live a long and healthy life.”

FAMU Student Health Services offers confidential HIV/AIDS testing for about $30. Dr. Shankar Shetty, director of student health services, said if doubt is present about a person’s positive or negative status, he or she should get tested.

“It’s very important,” he said. “If they don’t know, they could transfer the virus to sexual partners.”

“That’s what happens to so many people,” Hamilton said about the virus being unknowingly transmitted. “Everybody should know about their status.”

Pearl S. Gray, an associate professor of Anthropology at FAMU, said societal stereotypes and the common fear of testing keeps people from learning their status.

“They’re afraid if they know they’re positive, others in the community won’t treat them well,” she said.

She said the fear is more present in men.

“If you are a positive male, others may think you’re gay,” she said.

Shetty said a person finding out that they have tested positive for either virus doesn’t mean life is over.

“There is no cure, but a lot of anti-viral medicines are available that can allow people to live 10 to 15 years or beyond,” he said.

Hamilton said the hardest part of the testing process is making it to the appointment.

“All you have to do is show up.”