WE ALREADY learned about the different sexually transmitted diseases while in high school. The reactions were varied, some cringed, others giggled, and others... became anxious.
It's worse today as the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) has become widespread among the youth.
According to NYC commissioner Percival Cendaña, out of the 29 Filipinos who get infected every day in the Philippines, more than half or 19 are aged 15 to 24 years old.
Twenty-five out of the 29 are 15 to 30 years old. Indeed, it is one of the most urgent concerns that the Filipino youth are facing nowadays. Again, how can HIV be acquired?
According to Dr. Rizza Marie Franco, an OB-Gyne from Metro Davao Medical and Research Center (MDMRC) Hospital, HIV is a virus that can lead to Aids or acquired immunodeficiency virus if not treated. Once you acquire HIV, you have it for life even with treatment.
Throughout your life, too, you have to make sure you stay healthy because once your immune system weakens, Aids may set in.
HIV is type of virus that attacks the immune system of the human body specifically the CD4 cells or the T cells. These are the cells that help our immune system fight infections.
If HIV is left untreated, the number of CD4, the cells that help our immune system fight off infections, decrease in number. This then makes the person with HIV prone to infections or infection-related cancers.
As the HIV continues to attack the immune system, the number of cells that help fight off infections decrease in number making the immune system very weak, then Aids sets in which is the last stage of HIV.
HIV has three stages. Stage 1 is the acute HIV infection which is within two to four weeks after first acquiring HIV. The infected person during this stage may experience flu-like symptoms which may last for weeks. But some may not be aware that they are infected because they may not feel sick at all.
Stage 2 is the clinical latency or sometimes called HIV inactivity or dormancy or chronic HIV infection. During this stage, HIV is still active but reproduces at lower levels. The infected person may not have any symptoms at all or may not get sick during this stage. But it is important to remember that the infected person can still transmit HIV to others. This stage may last to a decade or longer but some may progress through this stage faster.
Stage 3 is the Aids. During this stage, the immune system is badly damaged. The person has a lot of infections. Common symptoms are fever and chills, night sweats, swollen lymph nodes or kulane, body weakness, fatigue, weight loss, mouth ulcers, and sore throat. A person with Aids is highly infectious without treatment. However, a person with Aids may survive up to three years.
Dr. Franco added that up to the present, there's no effective cure that exists, but HIV can be controlled with proper medical care. ART or antiretroviral therapy is the medicine used to treat HIV. If ART is taken properly, lives of people with HIV may be prolonged or even lower their chance of transmitting infection to others. If an HIV person receives treatment before the disease is far advanced, their lives could be prolonged.
One source in the Internet says grooming of pubic hair can lead to higher risk on acquiring sexually transmitted diseases like HIV.
Dr. Franco called this out as a myth, untrue. According to her, HIV can only be transmitted through blood, semen, vaginal fluids, and breastmilk.
A person may acquire HIV by having vaginal or anal intercourse without condom with someone who has HIV-Aids; by sharing needles or syringes with someone who has HIV/Aids; getting HIV infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions into open wounds or sores; being deeply punctured with needle or surgical instrument contaminated with HIV. Otherwise, HIV is not transmitted by simple casual contact like kissing, sharing drinking glasses, or hugging.
Until now, many people still question where HIV came from. Dr. Franco said some research trace the virus to chimpanzees in Central Africa from as far back as in the 1800s.
It is believed that those chimpanzees have a version of immunodeficiency virus called the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus most likely transmitted to humans and mutated into HIV when humans hunted them for meat and came in contact with the infected blood of those chimpanzees.
Moreover, in our country today, there are some government agencies and politicians who are working with the Department of Health craft plans or programs to curb infection among youth and to allow HIV testing among people aged 15-17 without parental consent.
“I think campaign ads and materials on HIV be made accessible to everyone not only to televisions but also to radios, billboards, newspapers or magazines. Conducting seminars and SGD or small group discussion to youth would be of a big help in educating them on what is HIV,” Dr. Franco said.
The new generation has gone way too far and yes, they are even more vulnerable at present. It is way better to educate oneself first about this thing called HIV, than ending up feeling sorry for oneself. If sexual contact cannot be controlled, then better use safety measures recommended by the experts.
The writer, Jan Marie Gonzales, is a student of the Ateneo de Davao University.