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How can I help the person with HIV/AIDs?
Jun 29, 1998

I work in a Gay and Lesbian Community Center and would also like to do some work at the place in town that provides living space for PWAs. I know how to protect myself from contracting HIV, but how do I protect my friends from me and any 'germs' I might have? I hate the thought of giving a cold to someone who is already immune-deficient. We always hear stuff on how to not get HIV, but I've never heard anything on this subject.

Response from Ms. Breuer

Thank you for your thoughtful question. The best way to protect someone with an impaired immune system from catching what you have is to stay home and get over it before you go out in public. In the process, you'll protect everyone else, too. I wish this were standard practice, but we still honor the "hero" who goes to work with a drippy, miserable flu, so we're a long way away. The "hero" infects everyone else, of course. If you decide to be part of changing this "sick" culture by staying home until you're well, you will enjoy another benefit: you'll probably recover faster.

Beyond that, please take comfort in knowing that HIV attacks one part of the immune system--the cell-mediated part--but not the part that controls the body's response to common colds and flus. Whether or not a person with an impaired immune system gets your cold depends on how resistant that person has always been to colds. The thoughtful way to handle it is to tell the person you're about to spend time with that you have a cold, and allow that person to decide how to proceed. The danger is that when someone with AIDS does get a cold, s/he gets sicker than others and it takes that person far longer to recover than others. That takes us back to my first point: please stay home until you feel well.

Nancy Breuer



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