The frantic female voice on my voicemail yesterday said,

“I feel really stupid asking this, but I just have to ask! I am a nurse, I know I should know better, but I was in a couple’s home yesterday and at the end of our conversation I asked them how their health is and they said they were HIV positive! I didn’t flinch, told them I would pray for them, and left soon after that. I am scared to death! Please call me back. I have small children, could I have gotten IT when I was at their house? Oh my gosh, please call me back!”

The above paragraph was almost like a single sentence without a period. She kept apologizing over and over again on the message. She was so embarrassed.

I love these kinds of calls! It’s an opportunity to have a discussion with someone highly motivated, and I’ve learned over the years that it’s like talking to dozens of people. Because if this one person gets the message, then she will tell her story to dozens of others over the coming weeks and months.

I dialed her number and she answered on the first ring.

“Thank you SO much for calling! I know I should know better, but I don’t! It was my first experience being around someone that I KNEW was HIV positive.”

I told her she was going to be fine and started my HIV 101 spiel:

“Thank God we can’t get HIV in a casual way!” I started. “So let me tell you how you can’t get it,” I said.

YOU CANNOT GET HIV FROM:

  1. Mosquitos
  2. Drinking out of the same glass or communion cup, or using the same fork.
  3. Using the same restrooms.
  4. Breathing the same air.
  5. Swimming in the same water, or being baptized in/with the same water.
  6. Hugging
  7. Kissing
  8. Holding hands
  9. Tears, Saliva, Sweat, or Mucous if someone has a running nose or sneezes on you
  10. Sitting on the same pew, chair, or couch

“I could go on,” I added, “but I won’t. Let me tell you how a person CAN get HIV, or the ways people usually get this virus in the U.S.”

YOU CAN GET HIV FROM:

  1. Sex
  2. Drugs
  3. Breast Milk

SEX (though some of you may want to stop reading here):

  1. Oral Sex–this is a surprise to some people
  2. Vaginal Sex
  3. Anal Sex
  4. In other words, HIV is in semen and vaginal secretions. Condoms can reduce the risk as long as they are used from start to finish correctly, and do not break.

DRUGS:

  1. Sharing Needles during intravenous drug use is an effective way to get HIV.
  2. HIV is in blood. And its HIV positive blood into a HIV negative person’s blood that can infect.

BREAST MILK:

The virus is also in the breast milk of a woman who is HIV positive. She should not breast feed her baby if she is positive.

“Any more questions?” I asked. “Whew, I feel better!” she added. “Thanks so much!”

“Ma’am, there are no stupid questions here. Call me anytime.”

Questions about HIV? Call me at 205.975.8923. Email is marler@uab.edu. There are no stupid questions.

It’s just stupid not to ask.