It’s Not Over: A Review of the Different Lives Affected by HIV

Human Immunodeficiency Virus/Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (HIV/AIDS) has consistently presented itself as a hot topic in both news and healthcare. HIV is a retrovirus that attacks the T helper lymphocytes, which are the white blood cells primarily responsible for immunity. Since the virus’ first appearance in the 1980s, there have been numerous advances towards treatment. Currently, there are pharmaceutical companies that claim to be in the production of a HIV vaccine. Nonetheless, there have also been stereotypes that have developed since its first appearance. Remembering the first time that I had learnt about HIV/AIDS in high school, I recall my biology teacher stating, first off, that it is not a ‘homosexual disease’. I found it refreshing that this stigma was publicly addressed in a high school classroom. I do not know if any of my classmates held this view of HIV/AIDS. However, if they did, this would have been the chance for them to be set straight. Unfortunately, there are many people who, at a young age, are uneducated on the subject and only perceive stereotypical images of HIV/AIDS. I would like to believe that as people age, they become more informed as well. However, even though we gain new knowledge and insight on HIV/AIDS each year, there are still some who hold on to these out dated views. Constant education needs to be provided that illustrates the diverse group of people that HIV/AIDS can affect. This will hopefully, in the long-run, shatter these negative stereotypes. One great way to educate people on this topic is in the form of film. ‘Dallas Buyers Club’, which came out in 2013, portrayed Ron Woodroof, who was diagnosed with AIDS and told he only had 30 days to live. There have also been numerous documentaries on the topic of HIV/AIDS. One particular documentary that I will discuss in this blog is called ‘It’s Not Over’. The director of the film, Andrew Jenks, is known for many of his documentaries, such as ‘Room 335’, and his MTV hit show ‘World of Jenks’. The documentary ‘It’s Not Over’ centers on three individuals, in particular three millennials. These millennials come from different parts of the world, and contribute different experiences and attitudes towards the illness. Even though one of them is not diagnosed with the HIV virus, they are all still affected by HIV/AIDS. Continue reading

Ethics, Informed Consent and Race as Discussed in “The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks” by Rebecca Skloot

**Warning: this commentary contains spoilers.**

I had first heard about the HeLa cell line from my high school biology class. These cancerous cells came from a woman named Henrietta Lacks, when she had treatment for her cervical cancer in 1951 at the John Hopkins Hospital in Baltimore, Maryland. These cells were grown in tissue culture, distributed around the world, and became a multimillion-dollar industry. During my class, I had learned that these cells could grow in suspension, whereas normal cells need to adhere to something before they can grow. As well, I learned that these cells did not exhibit “contact inhibition”, a trait where cells only grow if they have enough free space to do so, and would stop growing once having reached an edge and would only grow in one layer. However, the HeLa cells did not stop growing when edges were reached, and would create multiple layers.

Henrietta Lacks

Henrietta Lacks

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