Some of you might recognize the name, Amanda Blake. Many of you will know her as the flaming red haired, fictitious “Kitty Russel”, owner of the “Long Branch Saloon” on the long running TV show “Gunsmoke.” Besides this record breaking TV show, Amanda enjoyed a long an successful movie and television career. She was frequently honored and respected by her peers. Her name was entered into the Hall of Great Western Performers and the National Cowboy & Western Heritage Museum years before the honor was given to John Wayne, Gene Autry or even “The King of the Cowboys”, Roy Rogers.
A lover of animals, she founded the Arizona Animal Wildlife League, now the largest “NO-KILL” animal shelter in the state. She later started the Performing Animal Wildlife Society (PAWS) to care for animals abused in or retired from show business. After her death, PAWS opened the “Amanda Blake Memorial Wildlife Refuge” to care for African hoofed animals, many of them destined for death in illegal hunt clubs.
Amanda was also a faithful devoted wife. She served as the compassionate and wise matriarch of her family. Many of you would have been proud to have her as your wife or mother. Why am I writing this column about his woman? None of this has anything to do with the Philippines or any of you? Are you sure? You see Amanda Blake died of AIDS. Her husband cheated on her and both of them died from the dreaded disease.
There are an estimated 2,665 cases of AIDS in the Philippines. That number is growing everyday. Information on the number of local AIDS cases is not available but with anywhere from 300 to 1000 sexworkers in the area you can bet if AIDS is not here now, it soon will be. We do not have a STD Medical Clinic and testing for HIV is rare. This insidious deadly disease is lurking in the shadows of the boulevard and even your peaceful barangay.
However terrible, this does not affect you, right? You do not use drugs or prostitutes; so you are safe. Are you? We won’t discuss the many ways, other than sex or drugs, this dreaded disease can inflict itself upon our community. Let’s just talk about sex. Many people cheat on their wife, husband or fiancé. Of course they are sure their secret lover does not have AIDS. He or she is not a prostitute or drug user. But you forget, when you have sex with someone you are having sex with every person they have ever had sex with also. It is impossible to look at a person and tell if they have AIDS/HIV. The visible symptoms come late in the pathology. Your lover can have the disease and you would never know it until it was too late. How about condoms? Remember, condoms are only effective 98% of the time. Two out of every hundred times you use them, they will fail. It could be the first two times or the last two times but with a fatal disease it does not matter much.
So what do we do? First, have yourself and your significant other tested for HIV. If you are healthy remain faithful to each other. It is not just a matter of morals; it is matter of life and death. Next, we need that STD health clinic. I know of one local University student who was infected by her fiancé. She was NOT a prostitute, just a foolish girl in love. She was so ashamed she did not seek medical help. She could have died for trusting a “man” (?) who later abandoned her when she got sick. The clinic is not a matter of condoning or making prostitution easier. It is a matter of preventing more Amanda Blakes.