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South Boston Online
South Boston Online
  Friday, March 27, 2015
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Street Stories
By Brianne R. Fitzgerald, RN, MPH
     JJ is a Korean War veteran.  I met him last month when I was sent to assist him in taking medication to slow his renal failure.  The clinic said that he was non compliant, in other words a disobedient patient.    

     The apartment was dirty, his simple iron bed held a lumpy mattress with an unwashed quilt thrown off to the side.  He had little food in his refrigerator save the Styrofoam packages from Meals on Wheels.  His bathroom was even more of a mess.  The walls were filled with pictures of JJ as a young soldier as well as acknowledgements from the US Marine Corps to JJ.  There was other military memorabilia taped to the dingy walls.  He never married.  His pill bottles were lined up on the oil cloth covered kitchen table.  They had big black Sharpie marks on the top of each bottle.  When asked about this JJ told me that he can’t see.

     “The VA is dragging its feet on my cataract surgery.”  It seems that for over two years his sight had been getting worse, hence the difficulty with medication management. 

     One phone call later and JJ was set to be seen the very next day at The South Boston Health Center.  Today he is being set up to be treated at New England Medical Center.

     This is an example of the long lasting and far flung effects of war.  JJ had his share of trouble when he returned home from Korea; alcohol, anxiety and an inability to find a place where he fit in.  Today he is still suffering from the effects of a system that in many ways short changes the men and women who give so selfishly to us and for the safety of our country.  A big thank you to a health center who responds in a timely manner to a man others have forgotten.

     Arte is 11 years old.  He came to the door with an ice bag over his eye. 

      “Que pasa?” 

      “A mosquito bit me.”

      “Boy that was some mosquito; you didn’t get clocked by your cousin, now did you?”

     I was at this house to visit his abuela (grandmother) who was sick.  The house was full of kids of all ages reveling in the freedom of summer vacation.

     “Can you get AIDS from a mosquito bite?”  The boy with the swollen eye was at my side.  The rest of the boys, about four of them aged 7-13 were in the room where I was doing my work with the grandmother.  She spoke no English and I had to use the kids to help me communicate.

     AIDS is 25 years old.  Education has been offered with and without condoms, with and without access to clean needles, taught by those who are infected and those with PhD’s, and still many do not have the correct information about HIV/AIDS.  I wonder what it is that we as parents, as doctors, nurses and school health teachers have missed in providing accurate and helpful information to this new generation of children.

     AIDS is a blood borne infection that is caused by contact with an infected person’s blood or during sexual activities.  Mosquitoes do not cause AIDS.  If mosquitoes were carriers of the AIDS virus then we would see a pattern of AIDS among a more heterogeneous population, as mosquitoes do not discriminate in whom they bite.  AIDS is a disease confined to those who share injection equipment when using drugs or tattooing, those who choose to have unprotected sexual activity with another, especially unprotected sexual activity with a person whose HIV status is unknown.  They do not carry AIDS.  Mosquitoes do not inject blood into a person they bite, they inject saliva.   Mosquitoes do carry some diseases in their saliva, like malaria and West Nile virus.   The mosquito sucks blood from one person and then takes a break to enjoy his meal. HIV is fragile and the amount sucked by a mosquito lives but seconds in the air, and HIV sucked from a mosquito is in too small a quantity to do any harm.  The AIDS virus cannot be replicated in insects.

     This summer as we confront global warming, potholes, drug overdoses, politicians who speak from both sides of their mouth and a war that seems to have no end consider your neighbors; old and young and let’s just say hello to one another.  One never knows what is going on behind the facade of what passes for normal. 

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