Scouts learning to use latex gloves to protect themselves from AIDS virus HOWARD COUNTY HEALTH

January 26, 1993|By Sherry Joe | Sherry Joe,Staff Writer

For generations, Boy Scouts have learned how to administer first aid. Now they're learning how to protect themselves from the virus that causes AIDS.

Scouts in Troop 361 of Columbia are equipping their first aid kits with latex disposable gloves and other items to guard against the spread of the human immunodeficiency virus.

"In the old days, you pulled the Band-Aid out and put it on the wound," said Dr. Evan Mortimer, assistant Scoutmaster of Troop 361. "Now you are going to put on the gloves before pulling out the Band-Aid."

Troop 361 is one of a growing number of Scout units across the Baltimore metropolitan area that are incorporating AIDS education into their curriculum.

"Many of the units already do it," said Fred Abt of the Baltimore Area Council, which covers Baltimore city and the five surrounding counties.

Although Mr. Abt has no statistics, he said many Scout leaders -- especially those who work in the health-care field -- began requiring their units to use latex gloves as soon as they discovered the risks of contracting AIDS.

"There are many of them who automatically did it," Mr. Abt said.

Last week, unit commissioner Susan Newell delivered a lecture on AIDS to the National Pike District, which includes western Baltimore County and Howard County.

"The days of bare-handed bandaging are gone," said Ms. Newell who showed a video featuring AIDS victim Ryan White, and passed out a true/false questionnaire about AIDS, and instructions on how to clean up blood spills.

Because the Boy Scouts of America does not have national guidelines for the treatment of Scouts with the AIDS virus, Ms. Newell and Dr. Mortimer are urging units to add latex disposable gloves, extra paper towels, and more bleach tablets to their first aid kits.

"The future is that HIV is real," Dr. Mortimer said. "Any Scout leader who doesn't want to deal with HIV should not be a Scout leader."

Ms. Newell agreed.

"This is part of our population," Ms. Newell said of the fatal disease. "People have to take for granted that AIDS is here to stay."

The Arbutus resident, who studied AIDS to become a unit commissioner last year, said she was surprised by the absence of national guidelines. "That really surprised me, considering how prevalent it is," Ms. Newell said of the disease. She said she expects to hear from national headquarters in March.

Meanwhile, local Scout leaders said they are prepared to make AIDS prevention a part of their programs.

Dr. Mortimer, a gynecologist with a private practice at Fort Meade, demonstrated the proper removal and disposal of latex gloves during the Jan. 18 meeting.

"This procedure is something that I do 20 to 30 times a day," he said, adroitly slipping off a pair of gloves. About 20 Scout leaders and youngsters followed his example.

"We want gloves to become second nature to Scouts just as it has with nurses, doctors, EMTs and police," Dr. Mortimer said. "Dressing a wound won't change. All you're going to do is protect yourself."

Although AIDS has not altered the way in which a wound is treated, the disease is slowly transforming the way Boy Scouts treat one another and others. "Since we have no cure or vaccine [for AIDS], we have to be careful," Ms. Newell said. "The best bet is to treat everyone like they're HIV-positive."

Dr. Mortimer agreed. "The bottom line is that every Scout leader may have to help a Scout with HIV."

Scout officials say they know of three Scouts in the Baltimore Area Council who have tested positive for the AIDS virus.

Law Enforcement Explorer Scouts said latex gloves are vital tools of their first aid kits.

Ms. Newell said her biggest challenge so far is convincing parents that their children should learn about AIDS. "You can't go around with your head in the sand all the time," Ms. Newell said. "We have to look beyond and look at where we are now. By 2010, one billion people worldwide will be infected with HIV."

Ms. Newell said she hopes to deliver another AIDS lecture in September at the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints in Ellicott City.

"We're trying to tell people that HIV can be avoided by avoiding certain types of behaviors," she said. "We're trying to wipe out prejudice and fear."

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