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Tuesday, December 3, 2019

How well are we winning the war against AIDS?

The first day of December usually comes in high spirit with Christmas decorations hung and tons of end-of-year activities lined up ahead as well as the joy of a new year coming up, but the day itself reminds us of one of the world's deadliest epidemic; HIV/AIDS,

The disease that became identified and began to spread in the 1970s to 1980s but it's stigma spread even more since it became popular, which is why we will be discussing it and celebrating how far we've come with tackling the spread of HIV/AIDS.

Surely, if you live in a more developed country, HIV stigma might sound very alien to you in 2019 but it's important to know that roughly one out of eight persons living with HIV/AIDS report stigma that goes as far as avoiding body contact with them even from healthcare professionals.

Often times, people who aren't living with the virus are even discriminated against with slurs as a result of their weight class& body size, race, gender or sexuality, thereby maintaining certain stereotypes attached to them. This stigma is also perpetuated by myths that the HIV virus is only transmitted through sex and more importantly between infidels and sex workers which is frowned upon in regressive societies with beliefs that HIV is a punishment to these people.

This is why we'll be explaining the many milestones that have been reached since this deadly disease has been identified;

Condom use especially amongst teenagers:
About 1.6 million people [in 2018] between the ages of 10 and 19 were living with the HIV virus around the world and although this might not sound alarming enough given the world's population, I am displeased to inform you that only about 17% of teenagers have taken an HIV test in the last year which means many 9f the 1.6 million people aren't even aware that they have this disease, this is why condom use is paramount amongst teenagers having sex.

School-based sex education is encourage and advised as the most effective way to inform teenagers about safe sex as well as distribution of condoms and lubricants to foster commitment to practicing safe sex yet religion and morality makes this exercise unsuccessful in some of the world's most affected regions where even talking about sex seems like a taboo [Sub-Saharan Africa houses 89% of global teenagers recorded to have been infected with the disease].

The second and most outstanding innovation in the fight against HIV/AIDS is the creation of PrEP and PEP by scientists to prevent the spread of the HIV virus before or after exposure.

PrEP and PEP: PrEP means Pre-exposure prophylaxis and is commonly referred to as ''the blue pill'  is an HIV prevention medium proven to offer 99% protection [after at least 20 days if uninterrupted daily use of the pill even] when you have unprotected sex with an HIV positive partner; because of the 1% possibility of an infection, it is still advised to still use other HIV prevention media especially when you don't use the pill cosistently.

It's prescription name is Truvada.

PEP:- Post Exposure Prophylaxis is an even more jaw-dropping innovation in combating the virus as it does so aggressively within the first 72 hours of exposure. The AZT pill is the only prescribed form of PEP and acts as an antiretroviral [drug used to reduce viral load of HIV patients] on steroids.
Using either of these pills (PrEP or PEP) has side effects when you start taking them but they usually clear out after a few days of using them as the body gets used to the pill, These effects include headache, stomach ache, discomfort and sometimes mild changes in kidney size that corrects itself over time.

This is all to properly explain as we celebrate World Aids Day, that in 2019, it is easier to get malaria 5 times over than to get HIV/AIDS even when you've been exposed to the virus directly.

Antiretrovirals [ARV] are special drugs created by scientists to significantly reduce the replication of HIV virus in the blood stream and prevent the entry of other HIV associated diseases that can lead to death. 
This birthed the expression "reduce your viral load" used to represent an HIV patient with less of the virus in the blood stream; often times these get as low as undetectable.

At this stage, the risk if transmitting the HIV virus via unprotected sex is also reduced to less than 10%. Hence, it is advised for couples with one HIV positive partner to maintain regular ARV and PrEP use respectively to keep viral loads undetectable and HIV immunity even higher for unprotected sex.

Mother - child transmission:

Antiretrovirals also helps in preventing transmission of the virus from mother to child during pregnancy and several babies have been safely delivered without an infection.

An important thing to note about the ARV is that there are currently about 6 types used in what is known as combination therapy to prevent cases where the virus is untreatable by any one if the six types used.

For all these reasons, it is evident that the infections of the HIV virus and AIDS syndrome is fast declining with the possibility of a cure getting formulated sooner than we can imagine since the world has seen less and less cases of HIV graduating into AIDS year on year.
As a result, the stigmatization and discrimination of HIV/AIDS patients is a mind construct that must be laid to rest as we celebrate World Aids Day this year.

That's the power of the red ribbon!

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