Gambling With Risk Is Not Worth It

6 04 2015

I can’t think of a vaccine-preventable disease that kills or permanently damages 100 percent of those infected.

It’s a safe bet that if there were such a disease, we’d all be vaccinated against it. We’d all demand to be vaccinated against it.

The diseases we can prevent vary in how they affect us. Some, such as measles, will infect almost every person not protected by a vaccine. They’ll probably not feel good, but the diseases won’t kill or permanently damage every person.

In the case of measles, about one out of 1,000 infected kids will experience swelling of the brain, and one or two will die from the infection.

So not every person will be killed or permanently damaged.

Meningitis may infect a lot of people. Most are walking around with the bacteria in their nose or throat but they’re not going to get sick.

Rarely, someone will become infected and will get sick. And when that happens, it can cause brain damage, loss of hearing, loss of limbs, or death.

But it’s another disease that’s not going to kill or permanently damage everyone infected.

We could go through each vaccine-preventable disease and talk about how many infected people will have permanent damage or die from the infection. In all cases, the majority of those infected will live, and they will have no permanent damage from the disease.

I still get my kids vaccinated against every disease for which there is a vaccine.

No one is more precious to me than my girls and every parent I know feels the same about their kids. Dad and daughter on beach

I can’t risk either of my children living with or dying from an infection I could have prevented with a quick vaccination.

I’ve been reading about vaccines for two decades. We have more scientists on our advisory board than I can count, and I’ve been listening to them talk about every aspect of vaccines and vaccinations for two decades.

There is nothing that is going to happen from vaccinating my girls other than a sore arm or short fever. I can live with that. More to the point, they can live with that. The risk for my girls is not in the vaccine, but in the not vaccinating.

When my girls were tiny, I buckled them in before driving anywhere, and as they grew older, I wouldn’t take the car out of park until they were buckled.

Of all of the cars on the road at any one time, very few of them will be in an accident. And few of those accidents will result in permanent damage or the death of a person. We all know that. We still buckle our kids in before we leave the driveway.

It doesn’t matter how small the risk is to our kids, if we can protect them, we will.

The next time you hear a friend say they’re not going to vaccinate their kids, or they’re going to wait and stretch out the vaccines over time, take a minute to talk to them about why we practice prevention, even when the odds are in our favor.

 

by Trish Parnell





Everyone Should Get Tested For HIV

23 06 2011

June 27, 2011, is the 17th annual National HIV Testing Day. It follows on the passing of the 30th anniversary of the day the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention announced a deadly new syndrome, acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Three decades later, many things have changed about infection with HIV, including life expectancy, groups that it infects the most, and ever-evolving treatment successes.

Why get tested? Because the earlier you get treated, the better it is for you and for people at risk of acquiring infection from you. People who are under treatment are less likely to pass HIV to others than people who are going untreated. Without getting tested, you can’t know if you’re infected. Without getting treatment, you can’t keep yourself healthy or avoid endangering others.

You may be thinking that you’re someone who doesn’t need to get tested. Think again. The CDC says that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should be tested at least once. If you’re sexually active or engaged in recreational drugs, you need to be tested. There are, of course, groups at higher risk for infection. According to the National Association of People with AIDS, these groups include:

  • younger sexually active teens
  • poor women of color
  • men who have sex with men
  • people who inject or snort drugs with others
  • sex workers or people who barter in sex for life necessities
  • people who live in HIV “hot spots,” places where infection rates are so high that anyone who is sexually active is at risk. These hotspots can sometimes encompass only a few city blocks.

How can you get tested? Depends on how you want to do it. It’s possible to test at home, sending in blood from a finger prick to a lab for analysis. You can buy such kits at drugstores, but doing it on your own means that you won’t receive appropriate counseling if the result comes back positive. In some places, people can get tested anonymously and still receive counseling. But for National HIV Testing Day, testing events are happening all over the United States. If you’re interested in finding a testing site near you, check this interactive map.

Each of the two types of tests available—one tests for antibodies the body makes if the virus is present, the other tests for the virus itself—requires only a blood draw or even just an oral swab for antibody testing. If you think you’ve recently been exposed to HIV, the viral load testing is the test you need. You can’t rely on the antibody test results if 3 to 6 months haven’t elapsed since exposure, as it takes that long for the antibodies to register.

An HIV test doesn’t take much investment in terms of money or blood or even time. But even in this age of improved therapies and life expectancies with infection, the results can literally mean life or death, not only for you but maybe for someone you love. If you haven’t been tested, isn’t that reason enough to make June 27, 2011, your day to get it done?

By Emily Willingham








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