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). (Wikipedia)
In short, while HIV is a virus that causes infection, AIDS is a condition developed at the final stage of 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 ending discrimination, 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 sexual activity between partners (both heterosexual & 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. People living with HIV/AIDS are ridiculed and stigmatized for being ‘morally corrupt’ 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 wiped out too in the name of honor.
This stigmatization often forces the PLWHA to live under closet fearing backlash, social outcast, rejection from family, friends, and are rendered to live alone. 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 derive sadistic pleasure from pulling others down?
HIV is not longer a deadly disease because survivors with successful HIV treatment (Anti-Retroviral therapy) 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 adopt reckless approach. It’s always safe to indulge in sexual intercourse with protection though a carrier with reduced viral load may not do any harm either. There is sense of shame associated with mandatory HIV testing, it makes a lot of people uncomfortable with the thought of getting themselves tested. 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 unkindness, harsh approach can even break them even 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, 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, are 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.
Now imagine, how amazing their life would be when they are nurtured and motivated every moment. Imagine the smile on their face when they are loved, cared, pampered, embraced. Imagine how easy it would be for them to fight this battle.
You can make a huge difference in the lives of PLWHA 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.