HIV+ STUDENT USES HUMOR

by Brett Lindsay

News Reporter

He always tried to be a good boy. He made good grades in high school and currently has a 3.25 GPA at UH. He has always had a lot of friends and enjoyed many extracurricular activities. But somewhere, something went wrong.

"When my test came back positive, I freaked," said Stephen, a UH senior. "No matter how much you prepare yourself, or tell yourself that you're going to be OK, it's still very unnerving to get a slip of paper that basically says you're a walking corpse."

Stephen tested HIV-positive last Easter. "I'll admit, from my family's point of view, that my timing could have been better," he said. "Here we were, gathered for a holiday, and I tell them, 'Oh, by the way, I'm dying.' Even with all the chocolate bunnies around, it still kind of killed the mood."

When asked how he became infected, he said it was because of his Haitian dentist, who was an IV drug-user and a hemophiliac. He laughs and asks, "How do you think I got it?"

"I like the joke about the dentist because that's easier to admit to, rather than saying I wasn't always as careful as I should have been with the people I was with." A sense of humor is a must in this kind of situation, he adds.

Stephen and his boyfriend of three years broke up last March. "I got home one day after school and checked the answering machine. There was a message from the Houston Department of Health saying that 'Chris' had tested HIV- positive and that I needed to come in for a test, also. For me, that was more traumatic then getting the actual test results back.

"Before all this happened, I had been too afraid to get tested. I had always tried to be careful, but I couldn't deal with actually knowing. I thought I would go off the deep end if I found out I was positive. Being a gay male, the fear of getting sick is with you every second, no matter how 'safe' you think you are. After the phone call, though, I was more afraid of not knowing."

Stephen flew home immediately. Although he needed his family's support, he was still afraid of going home. "I kind of grew up in a Norman Rockwell painting, a big house in the suburbs, two cars, two cats and a dog. Dad worked, and Mom stayed home to take care of me and my younger brother; it was all very All-American. Later, I told my family that I was gay, and they were kind of OK with it. Yet I didn't know how they would react to my latest news." Stephen's family turned out to be very supportive.

He was tested by his family doctor, who, being a family friend, was able to have the results in 24 hours. The doctor even came over to the house to deliver the results. "I knew that wasn't a good sign," he said.

"My family took the news worse than I did. I guess because in the back of my mind, I knew this day would come. I know that they have the hard part -- I'll be gone, and they will still have to deal with it."

Stephen, who still looks very healthy, is dealing with his illness as best he can. "I was raised with a strong belief in God that I still have today. You know, they say the strongest Christian is a dying Christian." He laughs again. "Really, on most days, I just don't think about being sick," he added.

He is currently involved in an experimental-drug program. The study uses a double-blind approach, meaning both the subjects and those conducting the experiment do not know which subjects are receiving which drugs and/or placebos.

The patient receives a monthly supply of AZT and a placebo or D4T and a placebo. D4T is supposed to be as effective as AZT for keeping a patient healthy, but without the debilitating side effects. "I feel fine most of the time, but I do seem to get sick a little easier than most people," he said.

"My one and only goal when I first found out was to get my degree." Stephen plans to graduate in May, but he hasn't set any new goals. "That's one of the problems with this illness; I just don't know how much time I have left. I realize that no one knows for sure how much time he has, but when you're diagnosed with a terminal illness, it just makes everything more urgent."

Another problem is the lack of intimacy with another person. "I think that is what I miss most, being able to be held and loved and nurtured by another person. I'll never know that feeling of being in love and feeling secure with anyone ever again. It can be terribly lonely. Mom says to hope and pray, but I'm realistic enough to know that I'll be dead in a few years."

But to show he hasn't lost his sense of humor, he described another problem. "I assumed that all HIV-positive people became thin after just a little while, and I thought, 'Hey, thin is good.' I've been trying to lose a few pounds. So last year, when all the stores were having their big sales, I bought things a little small. But now, nothing fits. I now weigh more than I did a year ago. All that great stuff, and I can't even squeeze into it." He laughs again.

Humor can be a funny thing though, he said, no pun intended. "I told my mother that my brother will be forced to become fashion- conscious because I'm leaving all my clothes to him. I thought it funny, but she started crying. I guess we are still adjusting."

He gets serious again, his eyes misting up a little. "I'm not afraid of death, but dying terrifies me. I know that no one lives forever, but I just thought I would have more time."

 

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HOPE IN HOUSTON

by Ericka Schiche

Daily Cougar Staff

The people he shares a residence with do not know.

They know nothing of the medication he is required to take, his bout with tuberculosis or the mid-day trips he takes to an area just north of downtown.

Or the virus.

Aware of his status for the past two months, the twentysomething man takes careful, measured steps toward the door of recovery -- one to which neither he nor the other 999,999 people who have tested positive have had the key.

He still faces the possibility of contracting the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, which has killed 171,890 people in the United States, according to the Centers for Disease Control.

The pain that sometimes greets him during the waking hours is intense.

Only family members know he has tested positive for the Human Immunodeficiency Virus.

It is passed through such bodily fluids as blood, semen and vaginal secretions.

Mothers sometimes pass it on to their offspring. Intravenous drug users pass it on to lovers or fellow drug-users. Both heterosexuals and homosexuals can pass it along to their partners.

They have rejected him. When he meets people, he does not tell them he has the virus. The advice he offers is, "For them to get educated because there are a lot of people infected with the HIV virus."

The people he has relied on for both medical and emotional support work as health professionals at the Thomas Street Clinic. Such workers as patient advocate Frances Basulto reach out to him with open arms.

Basulto said once patients reveal they have tested positive, people who were once close to them sometimes pull away.

She said many of them attempt to commit suicide. Some are kicked out of their families' homes when members find out.

Patients receive such government-subsidized services as X-rays, injections, psychiatric counseling, prescription medicine and a much-needed shoulder to lean on.

The full-service clinic, established in 1989, is the first of its kind in the nation to address the medical and emotional needs of those who have tested positive and are indigent, said Harry Livesay, a second-year, Graduate School of Social Work student, who works for the district.

An oncological treatment unit, which will provide services for the cancer-stricken, and a dermatology unit will be added when the clinic undergoes renovation in March.

Last year, 4,000 individuals accounted for 17,000 visits to the out-patient clinic, whose budget is administered under the auspices of the Harris County Hospital District. Through a budget of about $4.5 million, provisions are made for pharmaceuticals, treatment and a staff of 70.

Ten doctors from the University of Texas Health Science Center and the Baylor College of Medicine lend their services to the operation.

An astonishing sum of about $3.5 million is devoted solely to pharmaceuticals. The high cost can be attributed in part to the steep price of cutting-edge medicine, some of which reaches the shelves within days after being approved by the Food and Drug Administration.

Clinic Director Carolyn Barrett said one of the goals she has set is to "have the staff become more aware of patients and regard them as clients and seekers of service and to treat them as customers."

"Some patients take a minimum of 10 medications a day while others with more serious complications take as many as 20."

Like any hospital lobby, the Thomas Street Clinic lobby is filled with tense people who either focus on an episode of <i>All My Children<p>, a magazine or their loved ones. Some stare into oblivion.

They seem to live in their own sphere, in another world.

As they wait to be called for appointments, their emaciated bodies rest against the backs of wheelchairs and blue, vinyl sofas.

The young man who keeps his ailment a well-guarded secret does not seem to suffer from the usual symptoms of the virus. It has not had time to ravage his body.

Like many others, he called 546-5700 in search of assistance. Those who meet financial eligibility criteria and have tested positive for the virus can receive treatment at the clinic.

After some questioning, he cited patience as his strongest quality.

 

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CAMPUS CONDOM DISPENSERS PROVIDE AMMO TO FIGHT AIDS

by Katherine Bui

News Reporter

UH's condom dispensers may become a city-wide phenomenon.

The Houston City Council is considering an ordinance requiring condom machines in bars and nightclubs. A Houston Chronicle issue from Jan. 28, 1993, reported that Councilman Ben Reyes supported condom machines as preventive devices used to promote safety and health.

Gale Hudson, director of the Parent Education Project at UH, added, "The machines make the devices available to all students, but that does not necessarily guarantee that everyone will change their behavior."

Last year, the university installed several condom dispensers in Agnes Arnold Hall, the Health Center and Moody Towers in both the men's and women's restrooms.

Delisa Herdie, a junior pre-business major, said, "I wouldn't use it (condom dispenser), but if someone else does, that's his/her business."

Walter M., a junior marketing management major, said the machines will encourage many people to practice safer sex.

Sonia Varghesse, a junior Hotel and Restaurant Management major, said, "The dispensers will allow people to overcome the shyness of purchasing protection."

One student expressed concern that the dispensers might promote sex and deliver a false sense of security.

Hudson said no protection provided a 100 percent guarantee.

"For my experience, the students that I have talked to never mention condoms as a motivation for their sexual activities. Normally, when someone decides to be sexually active, many different factors are involved," Hudson said.

Sheena Salim, a sophomore biology major, said, "Many youth are ignorant about the available devices. That's why schools are a great place to install condom dispensers."

Hudson said the effects of condom dispensers on the AIDS issue are immeasurable and could change the sexual behavior of some students.

 

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LIVING WITH AIDS

by Annette Baird

News Reporter

Fear of being rejected by friends, family, employers and medical insurers keeps many people from telling even those closest to them they have HIV or AIDS, Loras Goedken told a class of anthropology students Thursday.

"HIV takes everything away from you. It takes, and it keeps on taking, until it takes your life," Goedken said.

Goedken, Steven Bradley and Amy were thrown together by HIV. As part of the Anthropology of AIDS course, they came to UH to tell students what living with HIV and AIDS is about.

Goedken was diagnosed with HIV in 1985, contracting it from a contaminated blood product transfusion as a result of hemophilia. He has lost seven family members from AIDS, including four brothers, who were also hemophiliac, and his wife.

Amy, a 23-year-old UH student, was diagnosed with HIV six years ago, contracting it from the second boyfriend she had sex with. He looked clean, she took birth control, but they didn't use condoms, Amy said.

"It took five-and-a-half years for my father to come around to the fact that I had HIV. He used to cringe when he found out I'd told someone else about it," Amy said.

Steven Bradley's sister was ashamed to have a brother who was not only gay, but also had AIDS. "She viewed it as a punishment from God," Bradley said.

Of the three, only Bradley has AIDS. The others are asymptomatic. Bradley first noticed a purple spot on his arm in the fall of 1986. He was later diagnosed as having Kaposi's Sarcoma, a classic HIV symptom.

Asked whether they took precautions to guard against contracting infections, Bradley, who is tanned and muscular, said, "I'm not going to put myself in a plastic bag. I still smoke because it's more stressful not to." Bradley said he is very sensitive to tuberculosis and does not worry about colds and everyday infections.

Amy is aware of the risk of infections but only when someone has something noticeable, like a hacking cough. Colds in general last longer, and they're harder to get rid of when the person is HIV- positive, she said.

A lot of HIV people are hypochondriacs, said Goedken, and so attitude is very important. "You have to have a positive attitude," he said.

Amy said one tricky area is dating. "I still date, but it's hard to know at what point to tell them. It doesn't take long to see if they are going to be around for awhile," she said.

Goedken joked that he has asked Amy out, but she has always refused.

Amy gets upset when she hears people saying someone "gave" them HIV.

"I went out and got it; no one gave it to me. It's your responsibility; you have to be more responsible, or you're going to get this, and you're going to die," she said.

Bradley is tired of working with 18- and 19-year-olds who contracted HIV because they didn't take precautions.

"Look at your own behavior in the last two months. Look at the person you're having a relationship with. Talk openly with each other. Tell the truth. It's about not doing things mindlessly. Treat everyone as if they were HIV," Bradley said.

All three are active in the community and have devoted themselves to education about HIV and supporting those affected by it.

The UH Health Center offers confidential testing, individual counseling and an HIV support group. The Counseling and Testing Center is open Monday through Thursday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. for individual counseling.

Steven Bradley, Loras Goedken and Amy dispelled any notion that living with HIV and AIDS means they are dying. As they joked and teased each other, they showed themselves as people who still have everything to live for.

For more information, contact these organizations: AIDS Foundation, 623-6796; B-HIVE, a support group for single heterosexuals, 524-0182; and the AIDS Ministry Diocese.

 

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COLLEGE KIDS EASY HIV TARGET

by Dr. Rosemary B. Hughes

It has been over six years since the first healthy-looking young student entered my office at the Counseling and Testing Service during our daily walk-in hours and stated: "I am dying of AIDS."

That was a day of great awakening for me because, like most people several years ago, and especially those working in a university setting, I was not prepared to confront HIV directly.

When I began working at CTS, I did not expect to be either helping students deal with a chronic, life-threatening, sexually-transmitted disease or examining issues of death and dying with young people.

I had assumed students would come to us for help in developing coping skills -- but for life, not death. Moreover, I had not considered the possibility that some of our students, faculty and staff would suffer discrimination because of a viral infection.

My experience moved me to consult immediately with CTS Director Dr. Jerry Osborne, who encouraged me in starting an HIV support group, which would be similar to the many other "coping skills" group programs offered at CTS.

Within a few days, the UH Health Center referred several more HIV-positive students, and we held the first of hundreds of group sessions. Several other counselors would get involved with this work throughout the years.

The counseling staff was involved with many HIV-related deaths during the first year of our group. For example, six of my clients, all UH students, died of HIV-related conditions.

And so it began -- the realization that the college population is an easy target for HIV and that UH is no exception. Students -- often under an illusion of immortality -- are at risk because they tend to be experimental with high-risk behaviors often involving drugs and casual, unprotected sex.

When young students, driven by needs for intimacy in early adulthood, test positive for HIV, they ask: What about current and future sexual relationships? How, when and which family members and others do I tell? Will my partner leave me when I disclose my HIV-positive status? Will I be able to endure a possibly debilitating illness and a painful death? Will I live to complete my degree?

I quickly came to realize that our support group was different from others in the city because the students had common academic goals. For example, it provided a place to share ideas about how to explain to instructors that they would miss class (e.g., for a brief hospitalization) without risking reactions about their HIV status.

Our HIV support group has been one of many UH responses to AIDS. For example, we were among the first universities in Texas to implement an AIDS policy that was endorsed by former UH President George Magner in l989.

Additionally, we were one of the first campuses to install condom machines, and I recall resistance to putting them in the UH Hilton, of all places!

Furthermore, there has been an annual AIDS Awareness Week for the past six years, and UH has a dedicated group of faculty, staff and students who are active in the AIDS Consortium of Texas. Many of our staff and faculty have conducted HIV-related research contributing to the growing AIDS database.

Several of our colleges, such as Law and Social Sciences, have developed courses on HIV. The Counseling and Testing Service frequently offers education and prevention programs through several of its units, including Learning Support Services and STEPS.

UH had an early and strong response to the AIDS crisis. A small but vociferous group of people from the UH AIDS Committee challenged the university in its initial immobilization and denial. However, there is a need for even greater awareness, education and prevention efforts. For example, having a state law and university policy prohibiting discrimination does not assure the protection of the HIV-infected individual from subtle ostracism. We need to give attention to AIDS in the workplace, including confidentiality guidelines. A few years ago, I conducted a survey of our students' HIV-related attitudes, knowledge and behavior. The results indicated that although our students are fairly knowledgeable about the facts, that knowledge was not being strongly translated into behavioral changes, such as the use of safer-sex techniques. We must continue to educate the campus community and others about HIV.

There is a slow, but hopefully steadily growing awareness about AIDS on our campus. The Daily Cougar is demonstrating that sensitivity through this special issue, and I commend the editors for this effort. At least two important messages are conveyed: UH is not in denial about AIDS on its campus, and there is no misconception that the university is somehow uniquely immunized against a virus so profoundly and devastatingly impacting our city, state, nation and world.

Dr. Rosemary Hughes is a licensed psychologist and the assistant director of the Counseling and Testing Service. She is former chairperson of the UH Committee on AIDS, a member of the UH Task Force on AIDS Legislation, a UH representative to the AIDS Consortium of Texas and the UH contact for the AIDS Collegiate Network. She has conducted AIDS-related research and has delivered many local, statewide and national presentations on AIDS. To contact Hughes, please call 743-5436.

 

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ARTS ARENA OFFERS AIDS SUPPORT

by Rebecca McPhail

Daily Cougar Staff

AIDS and the arts may seem an unlikely couple, but with the number of AIDS cases in Houston rising steadily, it is a pairing seen with increasing frequency.

Because the Houston arts community has been hit hard by AIDS, the arts community has been exceptionally generous with its time and talent in raising money for and awareness of the disease.

Patty Ortiz, owner of the Montrose-area Unique Boutique, is a local merchant with a mission.

Once a month, Unique Boutique holds an art show featuring the work of local artists. All of the show's proceeds go to area AIDS organizations.

Aside from her work at the boutique, Ortiz travels to area night clubs to sell "safe sex" T-shirts and to inform the public of the risk of AIDS. She began her evening travels several years ago.

"I wanted to help in some way, but not everyone has a lot of money to give on their own, so I decided I needed a project," Ortiz said.

She chose nightclubs for the captive audience they could provide.

"Normally, there's a lot of young people in clubs who don't know how to help. This way, they can participate."

Although most people she encounters are receptive, Ortiz has found a trend she calls "dismaying."

"A lot of women feel that AIDS doesn't involve them," she said. "They seem to have a false sense of security."

However, Ortiz has encountered some negative reactions from women's groups who feel she is ignoring them, but she said this hasn't deterred her.

"I want to be extremely successful and reach a position where my voice will be heard, and I can help other AIDS organizations," she said.

One of the organizations Ortiz keeps in close contact with is Voices for Life, a Houston-based organization of musicians working together to raise money for AIDS-related causes.

Voices was founded early last year by Scott Evans, a part-time entertainer and a full-time management consultant.

"It started out of a deep sense of loss. You stop and wonder when it will be enough," he said.

So far, the project has yielded a double-CD package and a video in the works.

The Voices for Life CD, co-produced by Evans, contains 30 tracks from local musicians who have donated their time and talents to the project.

"Everybody, in their own way, has been wanting to make some contribution to relieve the suffering of people with AIDS," Evans said.

"The arts and entertainment community were hit very quickly because that's where a lot of the gays were. This applies to the design industry, too. A large percentage of that industry is gay," Evans said.

Because the design industry is so closely linked to the effects of the virus, designers have set up their own AIDS organization, Design Industries Foundation For Aids (DIFFA).

Houston's DIFFA chapter, originally Decorators and Interior Decorators Fighting Aids, began in the mid-'80s.

"Seven or eight of us decided to from an AIDS group which would serve as an umbrella organization for other area organizations," said Bill Kavanagh, current vice chair of DIFFA.

Since its inception, DIFFA has raised more than $2 million for local AIDS organizations, Kavanagh said.

DIFFA's most visible and most profitable fund-raiser has been the "Take a Seat" program, currently in its third year. The program involves the distribution of ladderback chairs to 100 local artists. The recipients then turn the chairs into works of art to be auctioned off.

"The reason the arts community is the most tapped is because they're the hardest hit," Kavanagh added.

Although the community has banded together to help those in need, a sense of hopelessness still prevails.

"What can you do?" Evans asked. "Just pray it never happens to you or someone you know."

 

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"WITHOUT" DRAWS ON IMAGES OF LOSS, EMPTINESS

by Amey Mazurek

Contributing Writer

"He told me his lover died in his arms," one of the surveyors of the "Without" show at DiverseWorks said of a stranger she met while admiring the artwork. "He was close to tears -- and I was, too."

"Without: an exhibit addressing grief, anger, the prospect of healing and loss in relation to the AIDS epidemic" will show through March 14 at DiverseWorks, 1117 E. Freeway (2 blocks north of UH Downtown).

This anonymous conversation outside of DiverseWorks is one of the indicators of how powerful the show is, how much it impacts those who see it.

"Without" is a dignified expression of loss, either by artists who have witnessed a death from AIDS or have died from it, as in the case of David Wojnarowicz. A black and white image of his face, "untitled 1991," made while he was alive, half-emerges from the sands of Death Valley.

"I thought," Wojnarowicz, in a soliloquy about his piece which appeared in a San Francisco magazine, "of the eternal sleep of statues, of marble eyes and lips ... of the wounding curve of ancient backs stooped for frozen battles, of the ocean and the eyes in fading light ... and of the face beneath the sands of the desert still breathing."

The same thoughtfulness and creative focus embodied the criteria for "Without," encompassing an "intuitive connection with the work ... to embody the issue of loss." New York-based curator Peter Edlund incorporated artwork "that works with different ways of approaching loss. Some pieces are comical, some are conceptual, some are straightforward."

Straightforward was Karen Finley's "Hope Chest," a large wooden chest filled with sand. Spectators were invited to inscribe the name of someone they lost from AIDS, then brush sand back over it. Unfortunately, Finley's piece travelled to another scheduled appearance in the Walker Gallery in Minneapolis instead of to Houston. Edlund "racked his brain" to come up with another audience-interactive work to match the impact of "Hope Chest."

As a synthesis of Finley's and Edlund's ideas, people are invited to write the name of someone they lost from AIDS on a small square of brightly colored memo paper, then drop it into an already half-filled glass bowl. In April, the names will be taken to the Gay and Lesbian March in Washington, D.C.

Another first sight is the approximately four feet by four feet, flat, self-contained Plexiglass square filled with human and animal blood preserved with formaldehyde. Quarantined on its own wall, "Hybrid: Metamorphose" casts an ominous but colorful impression.

"Lock" is a pyramid of solid hair clippings, gathered from hair salons by Elliot Linwood. "He spent a lot of time sorting and cleaning them," Edlund said. "His boyfriend had cut off his beard and put it in a jar, which impressed him ... as a little piece of something that was gone."

The most poignant facet of "Lock," Edlund said, was that "hair is something we take for granted. It's ephemeral. When you see it in a pile it becomes a different association ... The shape of the pyramid, it's enduring, like the pyramids of Egypt. There's an association with both the long-lasting and the ephemeral."

According to Houston artist Jack Livingston, bringing attention to controversial issues through gallery spaces like DiverseWorks is good, but limited to an alternative scene and art community already familiar with the personal devastation of AIDS.

"It would be nice if it was in some place like city hall or the medical center ... where it could be seen and understood by a wider audience," he said.

The exhibit itself is spare, as though delineating loss and encouraging reflection.

"Each piece has its own space in the gallery so you can spend time with a particular piece," Edlund said, "and you are alone with that piece. When you step back, you can see how it fits together."

 

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COWBOYS BUST NO. 20 COOGS 12-4

by Patti Warner

Daily Cougar Staff

Oh what a difference a day makes.

The No. 20 Cougars limped into Monday's game against McNeese State, after a two-game sweep of Tulane over the weekend, with a depleted bullpen and the flu bug running rampant.

They suffered their first defeat of the season as the Cowboys (7-2) downed the Cougars, 12-4.

The Cougars (10-1) saw their offense that had averaged 10 runs and 11 hits per game garner only eight hits against McNeese.

"The left hander (Cowboy starter Greg Garner) turned around our switch-hitters, and Phil Lewis and Brian Blair just didn't respond," Houston coach Bragg Stockton said.

The top four spots in the Cougars' batting order, Jason McDonald, Blair, Lewis and Shane Buteaux accounted for only two hits in 14 at-bats.

Lewis, who has been battling the flu, is mired in a mini-slump, with one hit in his last 11 at-bats.

Stockton said he used pitching by committee after the draining series against Tulane.

Junior Bryan Boyles (0-1) started for Houston, going one inning, giving up four runs on three hits and striking out one.

Cowboy first baseman Clint Gould tagged Boyles for a two-run home run that started out as a pop-fly to center and turned into a wind-aided liner over the center field fence.

The parade of Cougar pitchers continued with Jeremy Tyson, Jason Fojt, Brian Hamilton, Rich Paschal and Greg Lewis.

Paschal and Lewis held McNeese State to one earned run after the fourth inning as Paschal pitched 2 1/3 innings and Lewis pitched the final three.

With third baseman Ricky Freeman on first base in the sixth inning, Goudeau hit a two-run homer over the left field fence.

"No team in the nation will go 56-0 this year," Stockton said. "We'll have to just come out Wednesday and start a new streak."

 

 

 

 

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