HIV in the News


Here is an example of why it is so important for people to be educated about the facts of HIV transmission. It is tragic that so many students were potentially exposed to the HIV virus, but it is also important to remember that these young people were not exposed through sneezes, sharing cups, kissing, etc. The only way they could have been exposed is to have engaged in risky behavior such as unprotected sex or blood-to-blood contact, such as sharing needles. Unfortunately, we all make mistakes in life, and sometimes they have serious, lifelong consequences.
Let’s hope that the media educates people rather than frightens them. This is a good opportunity for people to learn the facts, if anybody with influence will share them.

My heart is heavy for the families in this situation, and I hope that grace will be extended to them.

HIV scare puts Mo. school in uncertain territory

By CHERYL WITTENAUER, Associated Press Writer Cheryl Wittenauer, Associated Press Writer

NORMANDY, Mo. – Students at a suburban St. Louis high school headed to the gymnasium for HIV testing this week after an infected person told health officials as many as 50 teenagers might have been exposed to the virus that causes AIDS.

Officials refused to give details on who the person was or how the students at Normandy High School might have been exposed, but the district is consulting with national AIDS organizations as it tries to minimize the fallout and prevent the infection — and misinformation — from spreading.

“There’s potential for stigma for all students regardless of whether they’re positive or negative,” Normandy School District spokesman Doug Hochstedler said Thursday. “The board wants to be sure all children are fully educated.”

A teacher in a neighboring district singled out a girl who dates someone at Normandy High and instructed her to get tested, Hochstedler said. A competing school’s football team initially balked at playing Normandy’s 8-0 team.

Jasmine Lane, a 16-year-old sophomore, said her boyfriend from a neighboring high school broke up with her on learning of the news — after she bought them tickets to homecoming.

“I cried so hard,” she said.

Hochstedler said that as far as he knows, no other district has had to handle a similar situation. Students at the school of 1,300 are being tested voluntarily, and the district is getting advice on the best ways to support kids in crisis.

Sophomore Tevin Baldwin said that many of his classmates in this working-class city of about 5,000 residents want to transfer out of the district, which encompasses other towns.

“Nobody knows what’s going on,” he said. The district declined to respond to his assertion.

Marcus Holman, a 14-year-old freshman, said he never imagined HIV would become such a widespread threat at school.

“I’m just trying to pass, get to the next grade, safely,” he said.

Normandy Superintendent Stanton Lawrence agreed that students remain focused on learning, despite concerns and distraction. There’s no hysteria or panic, and school is running routinely, he said.

“They recognize this situation is what it is, and doesn’t mean school is over,” he said. “Their concern is heightened, but we have to face it and do the responsible thing.”

The St. Louis County Health Department said last week that a positive HIV test raised concern that students at Normandy might have been exposed. The department is not saying whether the infected person was a student or connected with the school, only that the person indicated as many as 50 students may have been exposed.

The Health Department also will not say how any exposure might have occurred. Health Department spokesman Craig LeFebvre has said the possibilities include sexual activity, intravenous drug use, piercings and tattoos.

Hochstedler said the district doesn’t know the person’s identity, or even whether he or she is a student.

“We do know there was some potential exposure between that person and students,” he said. “We don’t know the individual or the route of transmission.”

The district learned Oct. 9 of the potential exposure and within a business day worked out with the Health Department how to release the information and handle testing, he said.

“They took a very proactive stance,” he said. “There’s no precedent for this.”

Students are being tested at six stations in the high school gymnasium, one class at a time. Only representatives from the Health Department are with the students, who are offered educational materials and a chance to ask questions before they are given an opportunity to be tested with a mouth swab, Hochstedler said. They may decline.

They exit through a separate door, and no one in the school would know who did or did not get tested.

“It’s entirely up to the student,” he said. “There’s a lot of stigma associated with this.”

The district will never know whether or how many of its students tested positive, he said.

“Once they’re tested,” he said, “it’s an issue between the department and the child and his family.”

So far, the district has met twice with parents and begun to ask ministers in the community to stress the importance of responsible behavior, Lawrence said.

Students in grades four through 12 already take classes that discuss the consequences of risky behavior, including HIV, he said.

Thank you for reading.

~Lisa

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Let me introduce myself. Russ and I are the parents of twelve children by birth and adoption, and sometimes more through foster care. I'm the creator of One Thankful Mom which has been as much of a gift to me as to my readers. In 2011 I became a TBRI® Pracitioner* and have lived and breathed connected parenting ever since. I'm deeply honored to be the co-author, together with the late Dr. Karyn Purvis, of The Connected Parent; it is her final written work. I love speaking at events for adoptive and foster parents. I'm also the co-founder of The Adoption Connection, a podcast and resource site for adoptive moms. I mentor and encourage adoptive moms so you can find courage and hope in your journeys of loving your children well.

0 Comments

  1. Paul and DeeDee
    October 24, 2008

    Hi Lisa,

    I was wondering if you were going to be getting hoodies in the AHOPE store. For some reason I thought I read that you were but maybe my desire for one just made that up in my head:) You can email me at deedee1784 @yahoo.com Thanks!

    DeeDee

    Reply
  2. Audrey
    October 24, 2008

    I really pray that this will be an opportunity for education. Thanks for posting this, Lisa.

    Reply
  3. Amy
    October 25, 2008

    Thanks for posting this Lisa. Amy

    Reply

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