According to Wikipedia, HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a subgroup of retrovirus that causes HIV infection. Progressive failure of our body’s immune system (if left untreated for years) allow life-threatening infections and cancer to thrive, this condition is called AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
This is the proper definition, in short:
While HIV is a virus that causes infection, AIDS is a condition developed in the syndrome caused by the severe immune destruction by the virus’s activity.
Ever since the virus dreadfully made its presence feel in the world in 1980’s, HIV has infected, according to WHO, 37 million people in the world.
Those days, there were negligible to no awareness regarding the prognosis & medical treatment was absent to control the viral activity. This resulted in unfortunate stigmatization and added immense pressurize on people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA) to conceal their status to anyone.
Three decades later, medical discoveries have bloomed, the mortality rate of HIV infections have drastically decreased with healthy lifestyle and proper treatment being undertaken on regular basis. But when it comes to our Mentality concept, It’s far from making any progress.
Today, there are seminars on HIV-related infections conducted worldwide, research experiments being conducted extensively to find cure, introduced into academic syllabus to propagate awareness amongst students and we all are probably well versed with the subject, yet our rational mind takes a backseat when it comes to our parlous attitude towards people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA)
Awareness is the key to combat HIV because ignorance, followed by stigma holds the potential to kill the survivors psychologically killing their strength.
First step is break the bad language and emphasize on using right terms.
An individual suffering from the disease is ‘Person living with HIV/AIDS’ & People living with HIV/AIDS (Plural), or a motivating ‘HIV Survivor‘ would soothe the ear. ‘HIV Patient’ or ‘AIDS patient’, ‘AIDS victim’ must be avoided to maximum level.
HIV survivor dies of/from AIDS-related diseases and not because of AIDS. Like I’d mentioned earlier, AIDS is an advanced stage that involves severe immune system destruction making the survivor extremely vulnerable to opportunistic life-threatening infections that causes death ultimately.
HIV is transmitted via:
- Unprotected (or condomless) sexual activity between partners (both Heterosexual and Homosexual).
- Through Placenta from Infected mother to fetus.
- Using an infected hypodermic needles
- Drug overuse.
When we hear individual infected with HIV; we only have one word to associate it with i.e. ‘sex’. We have kind of set our mind that HIV cannot be transmitted through any mode other than sex and appears like we have taken an ownership for this inappropriate ideology.
People living with HIV/AIDS are often forced to conceal their status to the world and when revealed, are mocked under the tabooed three-letter-word and downright stigmatized for being an ‘infidel’ or ‘morally wrong’at the time when they need is constant support and assurance. There have been instances in the past where the people living with HIV/AIDS had to deal with death threats from society and religious section and some of them have been slained too in the name of honor.
Recently Hollywood actor Charlie Sheen (two and a half men fame) had famously disclosed his HIV-positive status and followed was the outrageous and highly offensive remarks on his personal life that ranged from having sex with porn-stars to indulging in substance abuse. What no one seem to be bothered was he had to pay millions in order to keep this health status a ‘secret’. The stigma he had to suffer was belittled by everyone who were far more interested in panning him and happy to say he had to taste his own medicine.
This strangulating stigmatization often forces the people living with HIV/AIDS to live under closet fearing backlash, social outcast, rejection from family, ostracization from friends and rendered to live alone.
It’s an irony that is the highly educated people who fail to take a step forward and stand by the survivors. The stigma have alarmingly soared to a level where people living with HIV/AIDS were discouraged to stand nearby anyone, they aren’t allowed to touch, never allowed to share tables, food and bullied throughout the lifespan. The truth, everybody knows very well, that HIV is not contagious and doesn’t transmit through a simple touch. Alas ! What can we do, when we are too habituated in finding happiness in putting others down.
HIV is not longer a deadly disease because the survivor with successful HIV treatment on regular basis have shown undetectable viral load on their body fluids. Meaning, the viral activity is under-controlled and less likely to transmit. In fact there are discordant couples (where one partner is HIV-infected and other is not) who are living a successful life not only in terms of sexual activity but also for immense love and affection they share with each other.
This, however, doesn’t translate into freedom to have a reckless approach. It’s always safe to get physical with protection although with a carrier with reduced viral load may not do any harm either.. Stigma is also associated with hesitation to get subjected to mandatory HIV testing, it almost sounds like an ‘abuse’ when one is insisted to undergo testing. This report on hand comes with the fear of being detected positive and feel endangered about the consequences he/she could face.
People living with HIV/AIDS shouldn’t be judged for their HIV status neither the theory of their possible infection be subject of discussion.
They’re already shocked and broken from inside, in such cases, killing them with our harsh attitude can even break them countless time more.
Psychology always affects physiology.
What does your body experience when you get stressed or exposed to negative atmosphere? It affects your immune system making you weak and develop symptoms in the form of headaches, body aches, mood swing and in extreme cases, chronic depression
Put yourself into the person living with HIV/AIDS’s shoe and imagine (I would insist visualize), What he/she must be experiencing when they are ill-treated and discriminated for a something that’s beyond anyone’s reach and to be precise, a medical condition.
They loose the motivation to live, constantly under stress followed by depression. These psychological factors affects the already infected immune system ten time more and make them vulnerable to opportunistic diseases that can easily end their life within short span. (This is my understanding on human emotions and can be contradicted by scientific extensive research).
Now imagine, how amazing their life would turn out to be when they can only feel positive vibes every moment. Imagine the smile on their face when they are loved, cared, pampered, embraced. Imagine how easy it would be for them to have their medicines without having a need to self-loath. Imagine their lifespan increasing in front of you.
You make a whole new world for them when they’re acknowledged for their true self and not because of the virus living inside them. It’s high time we all come together for a cause urgently.
Treat People living with HIV/AIDS with love and respect and stand by them in all difficulties in life and I am confident that we have the power to change a life with our ‘kindness’. it’s a half battle won!