So a recent report about a new strain of HIV made me remember an incident in grad school that was both hilarious and perplexing. I thought I'd share it here for the masses.
So we had to take this boring class about diseases or something that is semi-relevant to public health, and basically we all had to do a class presentation about some specific disease and then field questions from our classmates. Of course I picked HIV because that's my field of interest and what my life revolves around for the most part. So my presentation day arrived and unfortunately I had the worst migraine ever. I suffer from severe migraines and I can never really predict when they'll occur, although I've gotten better at eliminating my personal triggers and that has done a good job at cutting back on migraines although I still suffer from chronic headaches. So I had a killer migraine that day and the only med that works make me pass out cold and/or act drunk when I'm awake. So I downed some OTC painkillers to try and take the edge off and headed to class.
I warned my classmates that I had a severe migraine and that sometimes the pain is so bad that I am a little loopy because it's hard to concentrate on transforming my thoughts into words. So if I said something that sounded weird please forgive me and if you're really confused ask me to clarify during Q&A.
So I go through my spiel and felt like all went well. Rather than doing a standard HIV 101 report I tried to do some epidemiological history on HIV and brought up some not often heard facts (because I'm extra nerdy like that). My classmates clearly knew about HIV and didn't want to sit through the same old song and dance (possibly performed by me in the past) so I was trying to spice it up. So I talked a lot about the roots of HIV, where it came from and how it got to humans. And I said something to the effect of "The best guess is that HIV originated in primates and somehow passed to hunters in Africa where it became a human virus." Now I cannot recall exactly but I'm pretty sure I stressed that it passed through bloodshed that occurs while hunting monkeys. That is why I stressed HUNTERS. But apparently, for one student, they didn't get that connection.
Now before I tell the rest of the story I have to introduce the character I will call Mabel. Not her actual name, but close enough in sentiment. Mabel was an African student in our program. Mabel was quiet, but nice when you interacted with her. Very soft spoken and unlikely to cause a scene. The most well known attributes about her were that she nearly always slept in class for the entirety of the class and she often had some very interesting hairstyles that once cause a Diva to leave the room because of some discrete, yet dramatic re-enactments by another Diva. I am very serious when I say she slept through nearly every class. You've seen those funny YouTube videos of baby's heads bopping around while they've struggled to fight off sleep right? Totally Mabel.
So anyway, Mabel happened to be in this class. And in true Mabel style she bobbed her head around for the entirety of my presentation. Of course it really didn't bother me because it was just another boring presentation in the end and I had a migraine and just wanted to get out of there. So I finish my presentation and ask for questions. Much to my (and I think everyone else in the room) surprise Mabel's hand shoots up in the air. Thinking to myself "Interesting that she has a question since she wasn't even awake..." I call on her. Mabel launches into a, no joke, 5 MINUTE rant about how she's tired of people blaming Africans for causing HIV because Africans DO NOT SLEEP WITH MONKEYS and that it is offensive for anyone to suggest this. There was some other weird stuff thrown in, but For about 5 seconds I stood there dumb-founded. I mean, I know I had a migraine and sometimes I say weird things when I'm feeling terrible, but even through seething pain I knew that I had not in any way said that Africans sleep with monkeys.
So I flipped back to my slide and re-iterated what I believe I said in the first place but made it a point to specifically say that in the SLAUGHTER of monkeys that hunters may have contracted HIV. The whole thing was just so weird. Anyway, the Divas were all in that class and I could just tell they were trying to not DIE laughing at the whole thing and it eventually went on to be one of the stories that lives in infamy. Anytime the words Africans and HIV come up we crack up over the incident. Good times.