Libya on Tuesday lifted death sentences against five Bulgarian nurses and a Palestinian doctor convicted of deliberately infecting children with HIV, paving the way for them to be freed after eight years in prison.PYY applauds this move, despite the fact this was probably a bogus case from the beginning. In my wildest imagination, I could not believe that these nurses would purposefully and deliberately infect the children they were committed to helping.
The ruling by Libya's highest judicial body, made possible by a financial settlement of $1 million each to the 460 HIV victims' families, fell short of a hoped-for pardon for the medics, who insist they are innocent.
Not only was this the right move for the Libyan court to make, it was a smart one. But what they really need to do is get a little smarter. They really need to commute the sentences or pardon them immediately, if they ever expect to receive competent outside medical help in the future.
What many people do not understand is, HIV transmission from healthcare worker to patient is very rare. So to determine that it was inadvertent and accidental is still highly unlikely. In fact, far more healthcare workers are infected by their patients than patients are by healthcare workers. If this is hard to believe, I urge you to take a look at this 2003 position paper put out by the American Academy of Physician Assistants.
With this in mind, I would urge all people in this country and abroad to educate themselves on HIV and how it is spread. This includes gaining an understanding of the population that is at the highest risk. Here in America and other developed nations, the conventional wisdom has advanced far enough that many of the early myths about this infection have now been effectively dispelled. Yet, I am sad to report there are still many people all over the world that still do not have the most basic understanding, due to ignorance or outright refusal to accept the data that supports this position.
You cannot get it from casual contact, toilet seats, or other benign methods. After all of the research and studies performed on this subject, we still find that drug addicts sharing dirty needles and unprotected sex are still among the highest risk groups.
So I think it's fairly safe to assume that unless you are promiscuous and are not using adequate protection or are sharing needles with your friends, you really have little to worry about. Even cases of transmission by blood transfusions using tainted blood have all but been eradicated, because all donated blood goes through an intensive screening process (at least in this country, it does).
With education and new drugs, AIDS deaths are down, after peaking in the mid 90s. Still we have a long way to go before this disease is eradicated. Certainly much more needs to be done in the way of research, but for now, the best way to not acquire HIV or die from AIDS is to alter lifestyle and prevent its transmission.