World AIDS Day: Ev­ery­body Counts

mailife - - Contents - with Dr. K

World AIDS Day was the first ever-global health day. The first one was in 1988 and con­tin­ues to be held ev­ery 1 De­cem­ber to unite peo­ple in the fight against HIV, the Hu­man Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Virus. This year the World Health Or­gan­i­sa­tion pro­moted the Right to Health and ac­cess to safe, ef­fec­tive, qual­ity and af­ford­able medicines for ev­ery­one, in­clud­ing the 36.7 mil­lion peo­ple liv­ing with HIV. HIV has so far claimed 35 mil­lion lives, in­clud­ing the one mil­lion who died last year of HIV re­lated causes. Nearly two mil­lion peo­ple be­came newly in­fected last year. The first HIV con­firmed case in Fiji was in 1989. An es­ti­mated 732 peo­ple are liv­ing with the virus in Fiji. While the global trend is for a de­crease in HIV cases, in Fiji the num­ber con­tin­ues to in­crease, es­pe­cially among the 20-29 year age group. HIV weak­ens peo­ple’s de­fence sys­tems against in­fec­tions and some types of can­cer. The most ad­vanced stage of HIV in­fec­tion is Ac­quired Im­mun­od­e­fi­ciency Syn­drome (AIDS), which can take from 2 to 15 years to de­velop.Peo­ple liv­ing with HIV tend to be most in­fec­tious in the first few months, when many are un­aware of their con­di­tion. They may have no symp­toms or some ‘flu type symp­toms in­clud­ing fever, headache and sore throat. As the in­fec­tion pro­gres­sively weak­ens the im­mune sys­tem, a per­son can de­velop other signs such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, di­ar­rhoea and cough. Without treat­ment, they could also de­velop se­vere ill­nesses such as tu­ber­cu­lo­sis and can­cer. HIV can be spread through con­tact with body flu­ids such as blood, breast milk, se­men and vagi­nal se­cre­tions. Peo­ple can­not be­come in­fected through or­di­nary con­tact such as closed mouth kiss­ing, hug­ging, shak­ing hands, or shar­ing per­sonal ob­jects, food or wa­ter. HIV is not trans­mit­ted through ca­sual con­tact such as shak­ing hands, us­ing a toi­let, drink­ing from the same glass or the sneez­ing and cough­ing of an in­fected per­son. HIV is a frag­ile virus that does not live out­side the body. It is not air­borne or food­borne. Com­pletely con­fi­den­tial blood test can iden­tify HIV but need to be done re­peated af­ter three months fol­low­ing pos­si­ble con­tact with the virus. An­tiretro­vi­ral treat­ment (ART) is avail­able and must be taken life­long. It does not cure HIV but sup­presses it and helps fight in­fec­tions so peo­ple can live healthy, long lives. Ways to avoid in­fec­tion in­clude con­sis­tent use of male and fe­male con­doms dur­ing sex­ual ac­tiv­ity. Avoid re­ceiv­ing un­safe in­jec­tions and pro­ce­dures that in­volve un­ster­ile cut­ting or pierc­ing. Peo­ple who in­ject drugs should use ster­ile nee­dles, and in­fected moth­ers can avoid in­fect­ing ba­bies by re­ceiv­ing the anti-retro­vi­ral drugs dur­ing the birth and breast­feed­ing pe­riod. Test­ing and coun­selling is strongly rec­om­mended for all those who have been ex­posed to the risk of sex­u­ally trans­mit­ted dis­ease or other ways of be­ing in­fected. Test­ing and coun­selling is also rec­om­mended for part­ners or cou­ples. World AIDS day helps cre­ate aware­ness about HIV/AIDS so that so­ci­ety can reduce the stigma that in­fected peo­ple some­times suf­fer. Ev­ery­one should be treated with dig­nity and re­spect.

DR. KRUPALI RATHOD TAP­POO is an Aus­tralian qual­i­fied Gen­eral Prac­ti­tioner, a Fel­low of the Royal Aus­tralian Col­lege of Gen­eral Prac­ti­tion­ers and the Med­i­cal Co­or­di­na­tor for Fiji-based NGO Sai Prema Foun­da­tion. Dr. Krupali is based at Mitchells Clinic...

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