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SPEAKER ADDRESSES REALITIES OF HIV
By Dick Mason
Observer Staff Writer
Sweetness never tasted so bitter.
Joel Goldman of Los Angeles was in his doctors office where he had just learned that he had tested positive for HIV, the virus that causes AIDS.
I really thought I was having a bad dream, said Goldman, who spoke at Eastern Oregon University Monday.
Goldman wanted desperately to prove to himself that he was not experiencing reality.
Goldman saw a cherry lollipop in the physicians office. Goldman knew that if he could taste it he was not dreaming.
The lollipop had a real taste. At that moment Goldman realized he was awake and facing an agonizing future.
The doctor talked to me for the next 90 minutes about how to fight AIDS but I didnt hear anything he said, Goldman said.
Next, Goldman had to do perhaps the most agonizing thing he has ever done.
I had to look my Mom and Dad in the eye and tell them that I would die before them. I hope and pray that you never have to do this, Goldman said.
Goldman contracted HIV via sexual encounters he had while under the influence of alcohol. He said he did not practice safe sex while intoxicated.
Goldman said that many college students make the same mistake.
During a presentation called Sex Under The Influence, he urged Eastern students not to make the same mistake.
He noted that while attending Indiana University he was a responsible student by day. He attended class, was involved in student activities and often talked with school administrators. His behavior changed dramatically in the evening.
At night I believed that college was a place to learn how to use and abuse alcohol, Goldman said.
Several years after college, Goldman began experiencing persistent stomach trouble. His physician suspected AIDS but Goldman could not understand why. He had tested negative for HIV earlier and had not engaged in risky behavior since the test.
Unfortunately the test had been inaccurate. Goldman had been tested less than six months after being infected with HIV. It takes the body two weeks to six months to develop HIV antibodies after exposure. HIV antibodies are what doctors look for when trying to determine if someone has the infection.
Goldman urges everyone involved in risky behavior to be tested annually for HIV.
One in 11 people (in the United States) who have HIV do not know it, Goldman said.
Goldman was able to track down seven of his sexual partners and urge them to be tested. One of the women was now the mother of two children. This disturbed him, knowing that if their mother had
HIV, the children also could be infected.
The fact that I could have hurt them horrified me, Goldman said.
Fortunately, all seven of the sexual partners Goldman located tested negative for HIV.
The outlook for people with HIV is better today because of improved medication. Goldman noted that AIDS deaths dropped 42 percent from 1999 to 2000 in the United States, according to the latest
Goldman warned that the statistics give people a false sense of security. He noted that the number of people being infected with HIV annually in the United States has not declined.
An HIV diagnosis today is not a death sentence, but it will dramatically alter ones life.
What happens is that your life is ruled by medications, Goldman said.
Goldman must take 32 pills a day. There are side effects. Some days he experiences terrible cramping and nausea. On other days he feels fine.
Goldman feels better today than he did a decade ago when he was diagnosed. He knows of many people who have not been so fortunate. Some people do not respond to medication or have to take much more.
Im lucky. I have one friend who has to take 90 pills a day, Goldman said.
Goldmans HIV diagnosis for-ever changed his perspective on life.
I realized how precious life is. I started taking stock of things that I had taken for granted in life, he said.
Goldmans presentation was sponsored by VOX, the Eastern Oregon AIDS Council, and EOUs Student Activities/Eastern Student Entertainment and Residence Life organizations.