“Of course with HIV it was very stigmatized. And it’s interesting because it all parallels to today that if someone does have a positive case of Coronavirus that that can be very stigmatizing as well,” said Perry Junjulas an advocate and a person living with AIDS.
While contact tracing has become popularly known with COVID pandemic, it’s not a novel concept. The method is something agencies like the Rensselaer County Health Department have used for decades to connect with people who are at risk for spreading the disease.
“When COVID came along we knew what we were doing right from the very beginning,” said Rensselaer County Health Director Mary Fran Wachunas.
About 260,000 Americans have died from COVID in nine months. That’s compared to the 770,000 deaths in the United States since the discovery of the HIV/AIDS more than 30 years ago.
“We’re trying to contain this virus, so the timeliness is so important,” Wachunas said.
Junjulas said there are lessons to be learned from the AIDS epidemic in dealing with COVID. He said what’s happening now is reminiscent of the height of the epidemic with people not doing simple things to stop the virus.
“It was just running rampant. So it’s just interesting now seeing Coronavirus cases vastly increase. We’re having trouble getting people to wear a mask, we’re having trouble having people socially distance,” Junjulas said.
The one difference, there’s a vaccine for COVID on its way. Something Junjulas one day hopes will be developed for HIV/AIDS.
“We really still need a cure for HIV. We are really hoping that we’re going to see it in my lifetime,” Junjulas said.
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