Monday, 10 Dec 2018
News

This high school was shaken by an HIV alert 10 years ago

Students leave the Normandy High School in Wellston, Mo. Ten years ago, the school was at the center of an HIV alert. (Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post). Ten years ago, Jennifer Wyms was a 17-year-old girl at Normandy High School in Wellston, Missouri. She was captain of her school's hip-hop dance team and loved going to the mall with friends. But when a fear of health invaded her community of St. Louis, she cast a shadow over her high school experience. A letter from school officials sent to parents and guardians in October 2008 announced that epidemiologists from the St. Louis County Department of Health had reason to believe that HIV may have been transmitted to the community. some students – up to 50 students from Normandy High School High School. could have been exposed, he said. "Everyone wanted to know who had it? Where does it come from? Why our school? Said Wyms at the Washington Post. The possible extent of this exhibition prompted the Director of the Normandy School District, Stanton Lawrence, to launch a survey and offer free HIV testing to the school's 1,300 students. "We were not trying to create mass hysteria and panic," he said. New York Times in 2008. "We did not want to create a climate of fear." But the stigma associated with HIV created mass hysteria and the event marked the beginning of a series of bad advertisements between the school and the community. still struggling with today. Normandy, whose students are 96% African-American, has always been ranked last in terms of school results in Missouri, and the school lost its accreditation in 2013. The following year, Michael Brown, a graduate of Normandy , was shot dead by a white policeman. in Ferguson, Missouri, his body remained on the street for hours – an event that sparked the Black Lives Matter movement. The fear of HIV has been "one of the most memorable things in my career, I think," Kwira Vickers Wright, a former social science teacher, told The Post. "We never knew it was a girl or a boy and we never knew who this student was." While the news was spreading in St. Louis County, some parents were considering taking their children out of school and a rival school had initially hesitated to play. the undefeated football team of the Vikings. Wyms said that she remembered having been in the softball team and going to play in other schools, and that it was something that 39 they would use against [us]. "Oh, well, I heard that they had AIDS on the wall," they would say. "I'm thinking about it at adulthood, you know it's irrational and not even smart to say," said Wyms, "but at the time it was offensive to us. The anxiety was such that some students made t-shirts with the phrase "I am negative".
The Normandy High School football team holds its helmets high as the flag floats at half mast after Michael Brown's deadly murder in 2014 at Ferguson, Mo. Brown was a graduate of the school. (Jahi Chikwendiu / The Washington Post). But not everyone has seen the scandal so negatively. Vickers Wright said that she thought it was "admirable" for Normandy to cope with the situation. She remembered a conversation with a health director who had told her that the HIV-positive person in question had revealed the names of other potentially exposed people, including students attending nearby schools. . Normandy was the only one to offer public tests. "At that time, I was so proud to be Viking," said Wright Vickers. "I was so proud of our administration. . . because at this point, you give priority to students. "I remember talking about this to my classes, being real and sharing personal experiences with them. I told them I would take a test with them. I remember many healthy conversations that ensued. The state health service turned the Norman gymnasium into a makeshift clinic with curtains around each of the six test stations. The tests were done in blocks for each class. Wyms said that she had perfectly timed to miss a class that she wanted to jump that day. She remembered queuing for about 20 minutes. "You can see who came in and who came out. It was almost a [rite of] passage to say that I am negative. If you have not seen someone get tested, people have looked at it differently, "said Wyms. Ninety-seven percent of Norman students chose to be tested, according to the
The New York Times published a report in 2008. The experience has prompted Wyms to learn more about HIV, although she admits she did not realize the "heaviness of the situation." high-risk behaviors, although each school district is responsible for determining the scope of HIV education received by its students. The Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education stopped distributing grants in 2006 to fund HIV education courses in high-risk high schools. According to a supervisor of the department's HIV / AIDS prevention program, cited in a 2008 report by the Riverfront Times, the agency called for the cessation of funding when only three schools applied for 15 grants. The human immunodeficiency virus can be transmitted through unprotected sexual contact, by sharing needles or syringes with an infected person, by blood transfusion and from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or death. 39; breastfeeding. There is no known cure, but advances in medicine have allowed HIV-positive people to manage their illness and live a full life. In the last decade, HIV testing and prevention has made significant progress. Quick HIV tests are available for purchase and usually provide results in 30 minutes or less. And in 2012, the Food and Drug Administration approved the first daily medication that can reduce the risk of HIV infection in uninfected people. HIV rates in the United States have also declined in recent years, although transmission rates remain high in some groups. African Americans accounted for 44% of new HIV diagnoses in 2016, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. "Even now, in 2018, when HIV seems to be part of our reality, panic ensues. We do not talk much about what HIV looks like, "Louie Ortiz-Fonseca, director of LGBTQ Health and Rights at Advocates for Youth, told The Post. "When young people are left to fend for themselves about HIV, it becomes fertile ground for stigma." [Policymakers and advocates on importance of access to treatment for HIV/AIDS] Ortiz-Fonseca works with young people between the ages of 14 and 24 who are HIV-positive. "Stigma manifests itself primarily in social and online interactions in a way that is not necessarily intentional," he said. "People write on social media things like," You are not clean "and this language is a form of spread of the phobia of HIV." Despite the panic of the fall of 2008, it is n & rsquo; There was no evidence of an HIV epidemic at Normandy High School, and no other person was found to be HIV positive. Wyms and Wright Vickers remember that the rumor lasted about two weeks from the receipt of the letter by the parents until the end of the tests. Since then, Normandy has opened small health clinics on campus, where students can receive free physical exams, STD tests, contraception and counseling on behavioral and mental health. But we still talk about the event from time to time and, to a lesser extent, part of the school's reputation. In October, during a live recording in St. Louis of MTV's "Wild & N Out" television show, one of the comedians wrestling made a dent on Normandy's STDs ". "This event has definitely cast a shadow on high school," Wyms said. "No matter what they've tried to do, like setting up a new track or a new football field, no matter what the school has done, this umbrella or this dark cloud has always been hanging over- above Normandy. "

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