HIV/AIDS AWARENESS

by: Joseph Henry Nebres

Nebres
photo by: agscientific.com

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus and the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or most commonly known as HIV/AIDS is one of the most common and most alarming issue of today and it is also one of the neglected topics. Based on the reports there are about 33 cases of HIV/AIDS recorded each day in the Philippines. In January 2018 alone 1,024 new cases was diagnosed positive with HIV/AIDS and victims are becoming younger and younger aging from 13-29 years old, 80% of the victims are males that had undergone same sex intercourse. According to the Department of Health (DOH) In the first Quarter of 2018, There were 3,730 new cases of diagnosed individuals with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and Majority of the cases were recorded from the National Capital Region, Calabarzon, Central Luzon, Central Visayas, and Western Visayas and there is 139 reported deaths linked to the virus commonly transferred through sexual contact, in April alone there are 66 reported deaths. The first recorded HIV case in the Philippines was in 1984, since then it spread like wildfire with 50,726 total number of recorded victims from 1984-April 2018 with 2,511 recorded deaths.

But what is HIV/AIDS and why it is very important to inform the public about it? Especially in the younger generations where most of the new cases came from.

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS, if not treated. Unlike some other viruses, the human body can’t get rid of HIV completely, even with treatment. So once you get HIV, you have it for life.

HIV can only be transmitted through certain bodily fluids of an infected person’s blood, semen, breast milk. HIV can be transmitted during unprotected sex; through sharing injecting equipment; from mother-to-baby during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding; and through contaminated blood transfusions.

HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the CD4 cells (T cells), which help the immune system fight off infections. Untreated, HIV reduces the number of CD4 cells (T cells) in the body, making the person more likely to get other infections or infection-related cancers. Over time, HIV can destroy so many of these cells that the body can’t fight off infections and disease. These opportunistic infections or cancers take advantage of a very weak immune system and signal that the person has AIDS, the last stage of HIV infection.

There is no effective cure currently exists, but with proper medical care, HIV can be controlled. The medicine used to treat HIV is called “antiretroviral therapy or ART. If taken the right way, every day, this medicine can dramatically prolong the lives of many people infected with HIV, keep them healthy, and greatly lower their chance of infecting others. Before the introduction of ART in the mid-1990s, people with HIV could progress to AIDS in just a few years. Today, someone diagnosed with HIV and treated before the disease is far advanced can live nearly as long as someone who does not have HIV.

What is AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome)?

HIV is the virus that causes AIDS but HIV and AIDS are not the same thing. And people with HIV do not always have AIDS. AIDS is the most severe phase of HIV infection People with AIDS have such badly damaged immune systems that they get an increasing number of severe illnesses, called opportunistic infections. Currently there are fewer people develop AIDS because of the treatment called “antiretroviral therapy”.

What are the symptoms?

Most people may develop symptoms similar to flu, 2–6 weeks after catching the virus. This is called acute retroviral syndrome. The symptoms of early HIV infection may include:

 

Fever, chills, joint pain, muscle aches, sore throat, sweats (particularly at night), enlarged glands, a red rash, tiredness, weakness, unintentional weight loss and thrush

 

How to prevent HIV infection?

 

HIV is spread through contact with blood or sexual fluids usually during vaginal and anal sex. So the only 100% certain way to avoid HIV is to not have vaginal or anal sex.

But most people do have sex at some point in their lives, so learning about HIV prevention and knowing how to have safer sex is important. Using condoms REALLY lowers your risk of getting HIV. If you’re going to have sex, using condoms every single time is the best way to protect yourself from HIV. There’s also a daily pill you can take called “PrEP” it can help prevent HIV.

Some sexual activities are safer than others when it comes to getting HIV. These activities are “no risk” — they’ve never caused a reported case of HIV:

Masturbating, touching your partner’s genitals, rubbing your bodies together, kissing, having oral sex with a condom or dental dam, using clean sex toys

These activities are “lower risk” — they’ve only caused a few reported cases of HIV (out of millions):

“French” or deep kissing (if the person with HIV has sores or bleeding in their mouth), vaginal sex with a condom and/or PrEP, anal sex with a condom and/or PrEP, oral sex without a condom or dental dam

These activities are “high risk” — millions of people get HIV this way:

vaginal sex without a condom or PrEP, anal sex without a condom or PrEP

It’s easier for HIV to get into your body if you have sores, cuts, or openings in your skin that semen, vaginal fluids, or blood may get into. So don’t have sex if you have a herpes outbreak or other infections. Having other STDs makes you more likely to get HIV, so it’s a good idea to get tested for STDs regularly.

There’s no vaccine that protects against HIV, but many people are working on making one. And there are medicines (called PEP and PrEP) that can help prevent HIV. PrEP stands for pre-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a pill you take once a day that can help you prevent HIV PEP stands for post-exposure prophylaxis. It’s a series of pills you start taking after you’ve been exposed to HIV that lowers your chances of getting HIV. You have to start PEP within 72 hours (3 days), after you were exposed to HIV for it to work.

Based on the statistics HIV/AIDS is rampant and spreading fast. Having sexual intercourse is a human thing but in today’s condition it is important to know what are the do’s and don’ts before having a sexual intercourse. If you have an active sex life it is best to visit your Doctor once in a while and make sure to always use protection because prevention is always better than cure whereas in the case of HIV/AIDS there is no cure because once you are infected you’ll have it for life.

 

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