July 28, 1999

Hispanic women learn to
discern AIDS facts from fantasy

___By Marv Knox
___SAN ANTONIO--Although AIDS is frightening, Christians need not be scared of the disease, participants at the Celebrating the Hispanic Woman conference learned.
___"This is a disease that kills people," acknowledged Filepe Garza, regional administrator for Buckner Children and Family Services in Midland. "It can happen to any of us. It doesn't happen just to black or brown people, just to rich or poor people."
___AIDS stands for "acquired immuno-difficiency syndrome," Garza said in a series of discussion sessions on the disease and its implications for families.
___"With AIDS, the body's ability to fight infection breaks down," eventually resulting from death caused by any of a number of diseases, Garza said. The HIV virus, which cannot be cured, causes AIDS, he added.
___Garza explained facts and clarified falsehoods concerning AIDS to participants in his seminar, which primarily were teenage girls.
___AIDS afflicts males and females, the young and the old, people in all kinds of communities and people from every cultural and ethnic group, he explained.
___AIDS is contracted by sharing a hypodermic needle or syringe with someone who is infected with the disease, exposure to blood of an AIDS victim and having sex with someone who has the AIDS virus, Garza said. Also, a pregnant woman can pass the virus to her baby during pregnancy or birth, and a nursing mother can infect her child by breast-feeding.
___The virus enters the body through cuts or sores on the skin, through contact sports and through exchanges of body fluid such as blood, semen and vaginal discharge, he noted.
___Several myths about how AIDS is passed on are not true, he added. AIDS is not contracted by donating blood; casual contact such as hugging, shaking hands or sharing food; swimming; touching common objects such as telephones, toilet seats and utensils; insect bites; tears, sweat and urine; and coughing or sneezing, he explained.
___Symptoms of AIDS include unexplained weight loss, chills, swollen glands, white spots or unusual sores on the mouth or tongue, fever that keeps coming back, unexplained tiredness, an unexplained dry cough, memory loss or confusion, drenching night sweats, diarrhea and shortness of breath.
___"Just because a person may have one or more of these symptoms doesn't mean that person absolutely has AIDS," Garza said. "But these are signs that a person might have AIDS."
___The only sure way to know if a person has AIDS is a positive antibody test for the HIV virus, he said.
___More importantly, the only sure way to prevent AIDS is to abstain from the risk behaviors that lead to AIDS, Garza stressed.
___The risk behaviors are having sexual intercourse outside a faithful marital relationship and using drugs, he said.
___Unfortunately, some people--especially teenagers-- make some common mistakes regarding AIDS, he reported.
___For example, a teen may say, "I only have one (sex) partner," he said. "You may have only one partner. That partner may have had only one other partner. And that partner may have had many other partners. When you have sex outside a faithful marriage, it's like having sex with every other person in all those relationships."
___Some people say of sex or using a needle for drugs, "But it's only one time." he noted. "Your life is at stake. It may take only one time.
___"This is a life decision. One time can cost you your life. A few minutes of pleasure is not worth your life. AIDS is fatal. It's not that you might be sick. It's not that you'll be in the hospital. You will die."
___Garza closed with words of comfort and a bit of advice.
___"This is a scary topic, but the reality is you don't have to be scared," he said. "Abstinence is the protection. Don't have sex and don't use drugs, and you won't get AIDS.
___"Abstinence is the 100 percent certain way to be sure you don't get the AIDS virus."

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