By Ronelyn Faith C. Vailoces
There is no cure for human immunodeficiency virus (HIV), but with early detection, according to Dr. Ma. Lourdes Ursos, instructor at the Silliman University (SU) Medical School, a person who is HIV positive can survive with frequent medication.
The SU Medical School, in celebration of the HIV/AIDS Awareness Day last Dec. 1, distributed red ribbons, symbols of awareness and support for people with HIV.
Ursos said that everyone, even infants, are at risk of HIV.
“HIV is here and the number is increasing. People are so indifferent with the situation that we are having,” Ursos said.
From the first case of HIV in the Philippines in 1984, HIV cases in the Philippines reached up to 3,157 as of July 2015 according to a study conducted by the Department of Health.
As HIV cases constantly increase, HIV awareness decreases. Cases are even more common among younger ages.
“Imbis mugamay ang atong cases because of the Millennium Development Goals, nidaghan na nuon atong cases, which is alarming,” Ursos said. (Instead of [HIV] cases decreasing because of the Millennium Development Goals, the cases just increased, which is alarming.)
Those who have higher risk factors, such as the drug users that use injection, people who have high risk of sexual behavior, commercial sex workers, and health workers are advised to immediately have HIV tests.
Moreover, people who receive blood and blood products are also advised to have HIV tests.
“The delayed diagnosis is the one that’s causing us a problem,” said Ursos.
Lack of Awareness
While doing the HIV/AIDS campaign, some people chose not to be pinned with the red ribbons and even asked what HIV was all about.
“Lately while we were distributing ribbons, some people [didn’t] want to accept [them],” Ursos said.
The situation meant that there is a need to raise awareness to people to further prevent the spread of HIV infections and give immediate treatment to those who are infected.
Contrary to people’s misconception about HIV/AIDS, it is not as contagious as tuberculosis, but according to the WHO, it is the strongest risk factor for developing tuberculosis.
Also, HIV is not just transmitted through sexual intercourse; it can also be passed through blood transfusion and breastfeeding, as long as the virus has a point of entry in the human body.
However, the fear of being infected by HIV tends to drive people away from those who are living with HIV.
People living with HIV/AIDS are sometimes stereotyped because of the misconception that the disease is mostly a result of choice, but it is not.
Studies show that infants aging 4 years and below can be infected through breastfeeding. A faithful wife can acquire the disease from her husband or vice versa.
Because of the stigma and discrimination, people are hesitant to go for medication. There are those who don’t die because of the disease itself but because of suicide.
“We have to remove the stigma… if [there is no] stigma, people will just have to test if they are HIV positive or not,” Ursos said.
People who have HIV/AIDS do not need the discrimination which is rooted in people’s lack of awareness about the disease; what they need is help and understanding in the society.
People’s lifestyles have a major role in preventing the increase of HIV cases in the country.
Rather than having multiple partners, everyone is encouraged to be faithful to just one person. It is also important to know the person first before entrusting one’s well-being.
“Women should know their rights; [they should know] when to say no and when to say yes, especially in a sexual relationship. Men should know their responsibility to every sexual act,” said Ursos.
Understanding the disease is also vital for prevention and for treatment of those with HIV.