If you haven’t read my previous post, then please read it here, because this is a continuation.
Ladies, imagine you are out for lunch with your girlfriends, then when you are ordering a soda one of the ladies says she’d rather take juice (the healthier choice) because she’s HIV positive. Or guys , imagine you are out with your ‘boys’, and when you are ordering a round of drinks one of the guys says he won’t be taking alcohol, he’d rather take something healthier. Why? Because he explains, he is not keen on overworking his liver, as ARV’s are doing that already. And they continue having a good time. No jaw dropping or change of attitude.
Lets take another scenario. A HIV positive mother who has just delivered a baby who is HIV negative. Due to her condition she cannot breastfeed this baby. During the baby shower, the baby starts crying and naturally the other women will chide her, for not breast feeding the baby! Imagine the agony of such a mother. She dares not say she’s HIV positive because then , her morals will be questioned and probably that will be the last time she will see those guests at her house.
Imagine a society where people do not discriminate against people living with the HIV virus. This is one of the goals of HIV/AIDS peer education training. It is to equip people with information and understanding of the virus, including how it is transmitted and how it is not, such that they will not feel threatened sitting next to a person known to have the HIV virus. And, they will not be judgmental to such people but rather embrace and support them. But this cannot be if HIV/AIDS continues to be a taboo subject. The more we talk about it, the more we demystify it and in the long run, the lesser the people who will be infected and even those infected will live a better quality life.
On the second day of the training, therefore, the trainers, who included a medical doctor, dwelt on teaching us the biology behind the HIV infection, how to protect ourselves and educate others on the same, and how to handle (or advise) People Living With HIV (PLWH).
Allow me, therefore, to share with you some random things you might have missed from your biology class
- When any infection enters the body, the white blood cells instruct the lymph nodes to produce antibodies to fight the infection. Specific antibodies fight specific infections. The standard HIV test checks for the presence of HIV antibodies in your blood, not the HIV virus However, there is a test that tests for the presence of the HIV virus itself, which very expensive.
- NB: When your lymph nodes are swollen and painful it means they are (over) working. Swelling of lymph nodes can therefore be an early sign of HIV infection.
- QQR stands for Quantity .Quality .Route. For a HIV infection to occur, these three must be present. The virus in the correct quantity and quality and the route (also known as the point of entry) through which it enters your body.
- A point of entry can therefore be defined as the point at which the virus can enter into your blood. These points of entry, I learnt to my amazement do not include the sexual openings UNLESS one has a wound (or any broken skin) on these parts. This means an infected person can have sex with an uninfected person without protection and still not contract HIV if they do not have broken skin. This re-emphasizes the need to get yourself tested.You cannot use someone else’ status to decide your own.
- Once a person is infected, the HIV virus is present in all their body fluids. However, in tears, saliva, mucus and sweat , it occurs in harmless quantities. This means that it would take 20 litres (all at once) of tears/saliva/mucus/sweat of an infected person to contain enough of the virus to affect you. And even then, there has to be a point of entry for the virus to your body.
- Of the three types of sex, vaginal, oral, and anal, anal sex is the one that puts one at most risk of contracting the HIV virus because of the risk of getting hurt in the process and thus getting broken skin.
- The HIV virus is not present in sperms. Or in ova, but in the fluids that carry them. That is why it is possible for two HIV positive parents to get a HIV negative baby.
- When the HIV virus infects a person, the person goes through several stages before they are said to have AIDS. These stages are 4 in total. The fourth stage of having HIV is what is called AIDS. AIDS is not a disease. It is a condition. On average an infected person takes 8 years to reach this stage.
- With AIDS, a person is now prone to opportunistic infections (OIs). An example of these is TB. It is these OIs that eventually kill the person. Not AIDS.
- ARVs are not given immediately one is found to have the virus, but rather when one’s white blood cells have reduced to a certain number. Their work is to stop mutation of the virus and increase the white blood cells (i hope i got that right).
- All medicines that go into our body pass through the liver for detoxification. That is why people on ARVs are advised not to take alcohol (which is also detoxified by the liver) as overworking the liver might lead to liver toxicity.
- The body does its best to fight the virus, that is why progression to AIDS might last quite long.
- There are two types of the HIV virus. HIV 1 and HIV 2. The former is the most common and has subtypes A to K. The latter is very rare and it is found in people living in West Africa. It has a slower progression rate.
- Most people with HIV die prematurely because of denial and the stress that comes with it. With proper management and nutrition, a HIV positive person can live for 56 years since when they got infected. We were told of a story a lady who was determined to live after finding she had the HIV virus. She ‘sat her virus down’ and told it. “Look here virus. Tuheshimiane ! You need me to survive. And if i die you die. So, I am the one calling the shots here and YOU WILL STAY PUT until i have seen my children through school! And she did.
- A – A is for Abstain
- B – Don’t just be faithful. Be faithful to one partner whose status you know.
- C – is for Condom. Right? No. C is for Consistent Condom use under Candle light. I can’t tell you how many times the importance of having sex with the lights on was emphasized. Have the lights on. That way, you can see any wounds or swellings on your partner.
At all times lubricate your hands so that they stay soft. This way, you reduce the chances of having broken skin. Any broken skin could be a point of entry. Especially check the area where your nail joins your finger before you give first aid to a nose-bleeding colleague.
It is a good practice to always carry a pair of gloves in your (hand) bag. Here the trainer gave an example of how he gave a pregnant lady a lift to the hospital, only for him to have to help the lady have the baby in his car. Amniotic fluid can contain the virus, remember.
Get tested. Have your house help or whoever watches your kids, tested. Don’t leave these things to chance.
- Water melon seeds and pumpkin seeds are very nutritious. Don’t throw them away. And when you eat them, be sure to chew them not just swallow. Fry them, if you think that will make them tastier, but by all means, eat them!
- Apart from the HIV virus, there are other things that can weaken your body immunity. These are old age, pregnancy and stress.
All in all, that was two days well spent. I learnt a lot of stuff that i thought i knew. The highlight of it all was that because there were VCT counselors on site, i took the opportunity to have my house-help tested. *Sigh*