On the fall semester of 2018, the students taking the Social Problems course, instructed by Professor Andrea Miranda, hosted a conference on HIV/AIDS awareness and prevention. The title of the conference is “La Lucha por la Prevención del VIH, Sida y la Defensa de los Derechos Humanos en Panamá”. The students have been working on this conference since the beginning of the semester and all their hard work was going to be presented on November 14th, 2018 in the room 302 at 10:00 A.M. The conference was based on a panel structure and the honorable guests were asked specific open-ended questions and they had to answer accordingly.
The representative of PROBIDSIDA was Orlando Quintero, founder of the foundation. He started his campaign back in 1999 with 10 patients. There are about 11,000 patients now. They work to help diagnose and treat the victims who are affected by the VIH virus. Dr. Quintero explained what kills people is not getting diagnosed. The fear of knowing if a person is infected with the virus. He also explained how the virus is transmitted and how it is treated. Nowadays there are a lot of ways of treating the virus to the point that it is not transmittable.
There is a difference between HIV and AIDS. The initial phase is VIH and it is not what kills the individual, yet AIDS is the real cause of death because it erases any possibility of your immune system to protect your body from any virus or disease. Mr. Quintero also explained that a lot of victims commit suicide. The virus attacks the reproduction of immune cells that protect the body from getting viruses or diseases. PROBIDSIDA focuses on the public in general but mainly people who lack financial resources. They go all around the countryside and help treat patients that cannot afford to go to the city or do not have medical care in their communities.
The representative of AID for AIDs, Milagros Caballeros, explained that the foundation is meant to be for the youth. They help them with medical care as well as mental care. Mrs. Caballeros believes that mental health is really important because these children and young teens do not know what is happening and it could trigger their mental health. She also said that since the virus cannot be seen at simple sight, it is difficult to know which child has HIV. Also, a lot of schools in Panama are very discriminative. Since children are very innocent and could be harmed easily by insults, their mental health and emotional stability is affected. Many students are mistreated or even told to drop out of school because of their condition. Schools say that they must use a different bathroom, different eating utensils, and even away from other children. HIV is not easily transmitted so it is not fair that young children are treated so badly due to the ignorance of staff.
This conference was very eye-opening and really taught me so much about HIV/AIDs. I did not know that Panama had so many cases of HIV! Another fact that astonished me was that Dr. Orlando Quintero was Professor Maria Alejandra´s father. This is something that shocked us and kept us very interested. This presentation was full of knowledge and intention. I really enjoyed listening to everything he had to say. He gave us very valuable information that not only we should know but the entire country and the world. I am grateful and proud of my Social Problems class for organizing such a thoughtful and engaging conference. I hope that more conferences like this one are hosted by the university.
Written by: Carlo Huang