a big disease with a little name


in the early eighties, doctors in america started noticing a group of patients who presented with a lung infection which was hitherto very rare. further research proved that in order for the infection to take place the individual’s immune system must be paralyzed and the cause for this was a tiny microbe in the family of viruses called retrovirus. to give this renegade member a specific name they called it Human Immunodeficeincy Virus (HIV), retrovirus being the family name. what the patients were suffering from would be called Acquired ImmunoDeficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

as with any new disease, the race was on for the cure. unfortunately for all involved a cure was not forthcoming and the drugs were only able to control the disease. to add salt to the wound these drugs were the bitterest pills to swallow in the sense that they had a lot of unwanted immediate and longterm side effects. worse of all they had to be taken in combination. so on an average patients will have to swallow any where between 8-17 pills and capsules in a day. this form of therapy is lifelong and any mistake in dosing and timing may have future implications on the viability of the regiment. all in all an insurmountable task but one which has got to be adhered to nonetheless for the sake of survival.

for those who are able to stick to the therapy (now encumbered with the term ‘Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy’ or HAART for short), hope of a good quality of life free of symptoms is a reality. many studies have proven this beyond a shadow of a doubt. on the other hand, a sobering fact to consider is that any one individual must be at least 95% adherent to his/her HAART in a month in order to have any impact on his/her health status. doing the math so that you don’t have to, this person can only afford to miss 1 and a half days of his/her drugs in a month. this effect is most likely cumulative. say he/she misses the drugs for 1 and a half days this month, if the same thing is repeated the following month the chances for the drugs not to work goes up exponentially. this is due to the fact that the virus is highly malleable in its genetic makeup. once there is insufficient drug swimming in the patient’s blood stream, it forms resistance to said drug and this change in its genes is persistent. there will come a time when despite taking the drug, the virus will thrive and the patient begins to slide down the slippery slope to a world of pain, suffering and ultimately death.

as if that is not enough, many people living with hiv/aids are subjected to ridicule and social stigmatization. i know of people who have been disowned by their own family just because of the disease. people have been ostracized and made to live in a separate room or house on their own. certain societies want nothing to do with them. they become living ghosts. in this day and age of IT and the information super highway, the stubborn ignorance exhibited by a lot of people is loathsome. just remember, if you stigmatize a hiv positive person you are just exposing your own stupidity.

tomorrow is world AIDS day. get over to the UNAIDS website and load up on information about this potentially deadly disease. and for all of humanity’s sake don’t be stupid!

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