December 1st every year is World AIDS Day and we stand in solidarity with everyone living with the virus.
I recall the first time I heard about AIDS. I was just about 8 years old. A neighbour was ill and was progressively growing slimmer and some weird bumps were growing on his skin. He was always coughing and deserted.
I noticed his aged mother was the only one who got closer and took care of him. I innocently asked my dad why uncle Emeka‘d suddenly looked like a dried fish. He looked like a skeleton. Will he get well?
My dad told me bluntly No, that uncle Emeka is dying of AIDS. I asked what AIDS was and if it kills little kids too.
My dad smiled and said no it only kills grown up who lived wrongly. I was contented with his answer. Uncle Emeka was taken to the village and I soon forgot about him and the AIDS ailment until the news got to us some 3 months later that he’d died from his sickness.
We later got to know he had been living with the illness for quite sometimes without treatment. This was in the 90’s, the period in which much was not known about HIV/AIDS and anti-retro-viral drugs weren’t easy to get hold of or very expensive when gotten.
It was also the era where there was no marked differentiation between HIV and AIDS, and anyone perceived to have the HIV virus was automatically categorised as having AIDS.
As I grew older, I learnt children and infants also can get the aids virus.
AIDS is Acquired Immuno Deficiency Virus. HIV is that virus that causes Aids. The HIV virus attacks the immune system. Immune system is refer to the body defence or protective system made of white blood cell (refer to as soldiers).
Let’s talk about HIV. HIV is Human Immuno Deficiency Virus, it is specific type of virus called a retrovirus. HIV invades the blood cells to replicate itself. It attacks the cd4 lymphocytes responsible for coordinating the immune system.
Normal cd4 count is between 500 to 1500. Once infected with HIV, a person is referred to as HIV positive and sadly it has no cure (for now). We pray science gets a cure soon.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) on the other hand is caused by the HIV virus. It takes years to develop. This disease limits the body ability to fight infections. The AIDS virus makes the body prone to infections and tumors that it are powerless to fight.
- About 78 million people are living with the HIV virus worldwide
- The sub-Saharan region having the highest burden.
- About 35 million others have died from AIDS-related illness since the first cases were reported.
- Records have it that about 14 million people have lost at least one parents due to HIV.
- More than half of the new infections occurs among women.
Transmission of HIV
HIV can be transmitted through the following:
- Bodily fluids,
- Sharing of needles,
- Breast milk,
- Unprotected $.e.x.
Through sexual inter course can be oral, anal or digital (using of the finger digits with open sores).
There is also the mother to child transmission. This can happen before birth if the woman is ignorant of her status. During birth (if she decides to birth virginally without proper supervision by trained medical personnel or after birth through breasts feeding.
STAGES OF HIV
There are four stages of the HIV.
- Stage 1
This stage lasts for 2 to 6 weeks after infection. It is characterized by short flu like illnesses, no symptoms. Infected person can still go around spreading the virus. Please note that HIV doesn’t show on faces
- Stage 2
(Asymptomatic) acts for an average of 10years. The person is free from symptoms. There might be swollen glands. HIV antibodies can be detected in the blood stream although it is still very low.
- Stage 3
(Symptomatic) thus stage is characterized by mild symptoms. The immune system deteriorates. There is emergent of opportunistic infections like tuberculosis, Kaposi, influenza etc.
- Stage 4
At this stage, the system of an individual is weakened completely. Illness becomes severe leading to AIDS.
AIDS/HIV is characterized by clinical stage 4 or a Cd4 cell count equal to or below 200/mm2. Severe infections and also tumors are signs of HIV/aids infection.
HIV COUNSELLING & TESTING (HCT) POINTS IN NIGERIA
There are HIV counseling and testing points in all government hospitals in Nigeria. People are assured of their privacy been protected because such HCT centers are guided by the 3Cs principles of:
- Counseling & posttest services and support.
The founding goals of HCT centers are:
- Prevention of HIV infections.
- Provision of entry points to comprehensive HIV/aids care and support service.
Furthermore, the benefits of HCT centers to HIV positive individuals cannot be over emphasis. Some of which are:
- Easy access to care
- Emotional support and better ability to cope with HIV
- Awareness of safety methods
- Promotion of faithfulness among couples
- Improves health and productivity of PLHW as a result of utilization of care, support and ART services (anti-retroviral therapy)
- Empower women to negotiate sex.
- Hope is restored with proper medication an HIV infected person can still live a normal life. He /she needs to commence HAART (highly active anti-retroviral therapy)
- An HIV infected person has to also monitor his/her viral load and CD 4 count first and repeat very three to four months.
HOW TO BE PART OF WORLD AIDS DAY
World AIDS Day is an opportunity to show support to and solidarity with the millions of people living with HIV. Wearing a red ribbon is one simple way to do this.
World AIDS Day is also a great opportunity to raise money for NAT (National AIDS Trust) and show your support for people living with HIV. If you feel inspired to hold an event, such as a bake sale, or simply sell red ribbons, visit this fundraising page.
As we commemorate World AIDS Day, we stand with all those living with the virus.
My personal message to all those living with the HIV Virus
- I just want let you all know that the world is a much more beautiful and better place with you in it.
- I understand the fact that you all go through a lot and I personally respect you all for that.
- You are brave, awesome, beautiful and strong
- You have so much to be loved for.
Finally, please do not discriminate against people living with HIV/AIDS virus.
Discrimination kills faster than the virus. Let’s love each other.
Source: My Notes from the Lagos State Health Volunteer Scheme, 2011.