YOUTH IN FOCUS: My question is a little sensitive.  I recently discovered that one of the people I work with is HIV positive.  I try to act normal around him, but I feel nervous.  I don’t want to use the same cup or even touch the things he has used. My wife is also scared and asked me to transfer to another office. I think I am over-reacting, but that doesn’t make me calmer. Could you advise me? How should I act around him?

Nervous, Thimphu      

Well, I guess your reaction is not uncommon, and we all instinctively try to avoid people or situations that we feel are harmful to our physical or mental well-being. However, you should realize that there is no chance that you can catch the disease by working in the same office with someone who is HIV positive. Therefore, in response to your question, “How should I act around him”? Act as you would around any other human being. You do not have to be concerned in anyway. Basically, just continue as normal.

Furthermore, you should put yourself in his shoes and imagine how you would feel if people started avoiding you and the things you have touched. You would obviously feel very hurt, right? Basically, you should treat him as you would wish to be treated if you were in his place.

Anyway, as knowledge and wisdom are the destroyers of fear and prejudice, I will give you some basic information about the disease:

Evidence shows that HIV is not spread through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva. Basically, you cannot catch HIV by:

• Breathing the same air as someone who is HIV-positive

• Touching a toilet seat or doorknob handle after an HIV-positive person

• Drinking from a water fountain

• Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with someone who is HIV-positive

• Sharing eating utensils with an HIV-positive person

• Using exercise equipment at a gym

• Being bitten by a mosquito

You can catch the disease from: 

• Having unprotected sex with a person infected with HIV.

• Sharing syringes with a person infected with HIV.

• Using tattoo needles after an infected person.

• Being born from a HIV infected mother.

• Suckling milk from a female infected with HIV.

• A blood transfusion or organ transplant where the blood or organ came from a HIV infected person.

If we look at the bigger picture, all of us have some kind of disease or ailment. While some of these diseases have manifested, others remain dormant in our genes and will be activated in the future. While we should do our best to stay healthy, we should be aware that disease and finally death will come to all of us at some time.

Finally, if anyone thinks that they may have been infected by HIV, it is important to get a test done as soon as possible. Ignoring it will not stop the disease developing, but getting treatment will.

For more information on HIV, contact Lhak-Sam:

Shenphen Zangpo was born in Swansea, UK, but spent more than 28 years practicing and studying Buddhism in Taiwan and Japan. Currently, he works with the youth and substance abusers in Bhutan, teaching meditation and organising drug outreach programmes.

Email to for any queries


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