Medically reviewed by Dr. Muhammad Ashraf Shera.
Being diagnosed as HIV positive can be the most devastating experience. The victims undergo a roller coaster of emotions – feeling a combination of anger, guilt, depression, anxiety and even regret. This emotional toll is justified. Indeed it’s a diagnosis that screams in your face that your life will never be the same again.
HIV today, AIDS tomorrow.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the immune system – the defense mechanism of your body that keeps you healthy. It’s like a leech that chronically sucks your health away. When your immune system gets damaged, it is easier for you to get sick and even die from infections that your body could normally fight off.
Contrary to a popular belief, AIDS and HIV are not interchangeable terms. If this sexually transmitted virus is left untreated, it can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). Therefore, a person who is HIV positive does not always get AIDS.
AIDS occurs when you acquire dangerous infections and a very low white cell count to fight against them. It doesn’t happen just like that, it takes around 20-30 years for an HIV positive person to develop a full-blown disease.
Hate the disease not the diseased!
Living with HIV or AIDS is not easy. What makes it more challenging, is the stigma attached to it. Very few people are open about their HIV status and those who are, they are often looked down by society.
They are considered as ‘the outcasts’ – their reputation is attacked; their character, assassinated. Nobody wants to befriend them, share food with them or even worse, breathe in the same air as them.
The victims even suffer discrimination in workplaces. They are often forced to evict their neighborhoods for the fear of ‘spreading the disease’. Ironically, some hospitals and health care facilities refuse treatment to HIV positive patients as well.
It is tragic that such perceptions are deep-rooted in our modern societies too.
Transmission of HIV
HIV is transmissible, but it’s only transferred via the exchange of bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and even breast milk.
It most definitely does not spread by coughing, sneezing, hugging, sharing toilets, working together or eating from the same plate.
The silver lining
HIV or AIDS is still a fatal disease. Once affected, there is no complete relief from it. However, the right treatment can help to keep the virus under control.
The prevention of this disease can be done by taking effective precautions against it. Here is a list of things that you should be vigilant about:
- Having unprotected sex
- Sharing needles for piercing or tattooing
- Sharing syringes for infusing drugs
- Getting pricked by a needle containing HIV-infected blood
- Coming in contact with HIV infected bodily fluids through cuts or sores
- Knowing your HIV status and getting yourself tested.
Support, don’t punish
If your loved ones are fighters of HIV or AIDS, you should offer them your full support and co-operation. Reassure them that HIV is a manageable condition and encourage them to seek treatment.
It is important to make the victims feel that you see them as the same person and that they are definitely more than their diagnosis. But, make sure to empathize, not sympathize.
Guest Post Credit: Dr. Tooba Irfan