When AIDS first came to public awareness in the early 1980’s, I was working in Massachusetts General Hospital’s blood chemistry analysis laboratory. Hospital administration decided to have any patients they “suspected” of having AIDS, labeled as such – both in their charts and their tubes of blood received a yellow warning tape wrapped around the top. It took those geniuses at the top four months to figure out the flaw in this system… people like me handing these test tubes, opening them up to conduct chemical analysis, would be more careful with the yellow tubes than those not marked with the warning. If a doctor let an AIDS patient slip by (perhaps he didn’t appear gay enough?) and his tube of blood had no yellow maker, well I might be in the lab tossing it up in mid-air between tests. So, after six months of insanity, MGH, one of the top hospitals in the world, changed the protocol and from then on, every tube of blood was to be handled as if it had AIDS in it.
There is a point to all of this. Back then, people really were scared and they had reason to be. This virus was brand new, nothing about it was known with certainty in the beginning. Nobody knew for sure exactly how it was transmitted, although it appeared not to be airborne. I was very worried, working in the chem lab, and this worry increased ten-fold when I accidentally stuck myself with a needle that didn’t even have blood anywhere near it. I had to be tested for AIDS every other week for three months, and every other month for another six before I was ruled safe. That was a frightening experience. With Ebola, which has been around since first appearing in 1976, we KNOW how to deal with it. Yet the media insists on creating as much fear and panic as possible. I have friends that are preparing Ebola survival kits. Are you kidding me? My reaction to their insanity is, “Are you insane?” The number one response is, “Hey, it’s better to be safe than sorry.” Really? Why not walk around in a bubble to be extra safe then?
Now New York and New Jersey has begun to enforce a mandatory quarantine for anyone who has had any contact with someone else who has Ebola. This is regardless of whether they have any symptoms… for anything. Fox News responded, not questioning the quarantine, but rather whether the quarantine will be long enough. “How do we really know how long a period is safe?” Wow! Ebola first presented itself in 1976(ii) ! WE KNOW.
People do need to get a grip, as President Obama suggests. Ebola is under control and anyone who suggests otherwise is either ignorant, afraid, or both. What we need to do is focus on the source of Ebola, help those in Africa, and continue to push for AIDS treatment and research. AIDS is killing MILLIONS of people every year. If a few straight Americans died from AIDS, everyone would be up in arms, but sadly it is transmitted through drug use and homosexually active men – in a far majority of cases… so most in the U.S. will not ever care. People living with HIV continues to spiral out of control; in 1990, 7 million people were infected, by 2012, this number has jumped to 34 million(iii).