Thursday, August 11, 2011

HIV/AIDS: 30th anniversary of untold human destruction. 25m people killed, 34m more infected, over 14 million orphaned children as war continues

The disease needs no introduction. However, Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome popularly known by its English language acronym (AIDS) is a disease of the human immune system caused by the human immunodeficiency virus known also by its English language acronym (HIV) This condition according to; progressively reduces the effectiveness of the immune system leaving individuals susceptible to opportunistic infections, and tumors.

By Yemti Harry Ndienla

Genetic research indicates that HIV originated in west-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century and was first recognized by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981, and its cause, HIV, identified in the early 1980s

Scientifically proven is a fact that the disease is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV, such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid, preseminal fluid, and breast milk. Transmission can involve either anal, vaginal or oralsex, blood transfusion, contaminated hypodermic needles, exchange between mother and baby during pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or other exposure to one of the above bodily fluids.

Although there continue to exist a dichotomy between two scientists; American born Robert Gallo, and French born Nobel Prize winner - Luc Montagnier, as to who discovered the AIDS-causing virus, both men are unanimously recognized to have done important work on AIDS.

HIV/AIDS is thirty years old today and counting. I don’t know how old you are. But what I know for sure is that ANNIVERSARIES are times for sober reflection. You would all agree here that thirty years is a long way to go. And it’s now well over thirty years ever since scientists discovered the deadly AIDS disease and by implication thirty years since the battle to eliminate the killer disease started. Therefore the 30-years in the history of this disease call for reflection. Reflection in relation to the number of people infected/affected, killed, fight against the disease, etc, etc.

AIDS is now a pandemic. Logically, yet unfortunately, there seems to be no cure for this deadly disease monster. Since its discovery, HIV/AIDS has infected about 34m people after sending 24m others to their untimely grave. Africa - the continent in which the disease was discovered, and particularly the republic of South Africa, has the world’s largest number of AIDS cases and one of its highest infection rates too. Additionally, over 330,000 children, and 76% of those HIV/AIDS related deaths in the world, occurred in sub-Saharan Africa with over 25 million deaths in southern Africa alone since the epidemic began.

Make no mistake the number of casualties would have been higher were the battle against the disease not taken seriously. The fight against the disease has instills hope in the lives of people in vulnerable countries who were expected to have died of the disease by now.

Today, the death rate is dropping and is expected to drop even more. Attest is the most recent report released in 2009 indicating the disease was able to kill 1.8m people against 2.1m people. Moreover, some 5m lives have already been saved by drug treatment and infections is down by 25% or more from its peak in 33 of the worst-affected countries

Even more hopeful is a recent study which believes “drugs used to treat AIDS may also stop its transmission”. And if that proves true, “the drugs could achieve much of what a vaccine would”, suggests the economic magazine.

Make no mistake; though treatments for AIDS/HIV can slow the course of the disease, there is no known cure or vaccine! Yet, many charlatans including “men of God” and particularly traditional doctors in Africa take advantage of certain situations to deceive the population - insisting they (the charlatans) are capable of treating the disease.

Though antiretroviral treatment reduces both the mortality and the morbidity of HIV infection, the drugs remain expensive and routine access to medication is not available in all countries. Even where they are available some other factors apply including but not limited to administrative bottlenecks, corruption, bad roads, cultural barriers etc..

More disturbing is a fact that people in countries were the disease is causing untold misery are using it for personal gains. In the republic of Cameroon for example, a former minister of Public Heath, and some of his closed collaborators are now awaiting trial for alleged embezzlement of funds (provided by the global fund initiative) associated with the treatment of HIV/AIDS including other communicable diseases. Like the former minister and his collaborators, many leaders of non-governmental organizations with objective of fighting the disease, are feeding fat from funds donated by sympathetic international non for profit interested in the fight against HIV/AIDS.

In the early days scientists were often attacked by activists for being more concerned with trying to prevent the epidemic spreading than treating the affected. Some doctors and particularly those in third world countries for example were helpless in the face of the epidemic. I remember in Cameroon, people diagnosed with HIV, were advised to go home, and return after it had developed into full-blown AIDS. It was then the doctors would start treating opportunistic infections with no hope of bringing the patient back to life. Today, the situation is different as many have had training in relations to handling the disease. Whatever the case, it would be a big relieve to the world if AIDS is defeated

As the battle against HIV/AIDS continues, the United Nations launched the ‘Global Fund’ during one of its first meetings on AIDS. And today, the fund as well as the President’s Emergency Plan for AIDS Relief (PEPAR) created by former US president Georg Bush Jr, are the two main distributors of the life serving drugs – antiretroviral around the world. Last year, the PEPAR, spent almost $7 billion on AIDS and tuberculosis that often accompanies it, and it is responsible for helping half of the 6.6m people now on anti-retroviral drugs.

There exist many “heroes” in the fight against HIV/AIDS besides the Global Fund, and the PEPAR. Among whom is Bill Gates. The billionaire, and co-owner of Microsoft Co, uses his Gates and Melinda foundation to discharge much of his Microsoft fortune to help in this fight. Hence, the foundation has created meaningful partnership with government of worst-affected countries including non for profit in its mission.

Thirty years after, the consequences of HIV/AIDS are myriad! Individuals with a positive HIV diagnosis are at high risk for mental health problems, especially depression and anxiety. Not only is depression likely following a positive diagnosis, living with HIV disease is a constant source of stress due to changes in work status, the experience of acute illnesses, and adherence to complicated medication regimes. HIV disease is also highly stigmatizing, and can result in discrimination and outright ostracism. Individuals often lose their social support systems when they are most needed.

While HIV disease can be managed with medications, there is still likelihood of early death which can result in reckless behavior and higher risk for suicide. Furthermore, HIV medications often involve complicated dosage and food restrictions and can produce severe side effects; these medications are a daily reminder of the reality of the illness and even without side effects can be considered a source of stress. Data from a longitudinal study of HIV clients referred to a program for enhanced substance abuse services are used to examine the mental health consequences of HIV/AIDS and the relationship between mental health problems, social support, substance abuse and treatment adherence.

Sphere: Related Content

No comments: