” I found out I had AIDS when I almost died in 1994,” said Bob, 43, from Yuma, Arizona. “I went to the hospital with pneumonia and there the doctors gave me the grim news that I had AIDS.”
Bob is married and his wife also has AIDS. He doesn’t know who infected whom, but he knows they got it from being promiscuous. “We were pretty wild when we were young. I guess we thought nothing could harm us.”
Now Bob has two adult children and a five year old daughter who was born after they found out they had AIDS. Luckily his daughter is not HIV positive because they followed a procedure to reduce the amount of transmission.”When I first heard I had AIDS I went through denial, rage, and acceptance,” he said. “I could not believe this happened to me and I was angry at myself because I wasn’t careful, but then I had to accept that I had AIDS.” He told his family and friends right away because he did not want to hide why he was sick. “When I told them my situation, they were all very supportive,” he said. His two adult children educated themselves very quickly. “They read articles about AIDS and HIV and went to meetings with me.”
When Bob first came out of the hospital in 1994 his body only had 18 CD4 cells. The CD4 cells or T-cells are responsible for telling the immune system what to do. HIV uses the CD4 cells to make copies of itself and in the process kills the cell. The loss of the CD4 cells weakens the immune system to fight infections.A person with 200 CD4 cells is considered full blown AIDS and 50 CD4 cells is really grim. Bob now has 400 CD4 cells. He is recovering with the help of the 30 pills he takes a day.”It’s hard to take all these medications, but ironically it helps your body survive,” he said.Bob now tries to educate his community about the dangers of AIDS and HIV. He has given talks to 400 marines, local high schools and juvenile facilities. “It’s very important that we educate the youth because they are at most risk.”As of June 2000, 753,907 people living with AIDS has been reported by the Center for Disease Control and Prevention in the U.S. There is also an estimated 300,000 living with HIV in the U.S. who do not know they are infected.The Surgeon General has reported that between July of 1999 and June of 2000, Latinos and African-American account with nearly 70 percent of new cases. Fifty percent of the cases are reported to be African-American. In the U.S., of the newly infected cases, half are younger than 25 years old.
As of the end of 2000, an estimated 36.1 million people worldwide are living with HIV/AIDS. Seventy percent of these people live in Sub-Saharan Africa.For more information about getting tested or finding support groups in our community go to www.aids.co.sutter.ca.us. The Health Department offers free, confidential testing during the hours of 8:30 to 11:00 a.m., and 1:00 to 3:30 p.m. daily from Monday through Friday. The Health Department is located at 1445 Circle Drive, Yuba City.