HIV/Aids - Does it have a social function?

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Tuesday, December 4, 2012

THE first day of December is traditionally dubbed as the World AIDS day. It is created to bring people together from around the globe to raise awareness about HIV/Aids.

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), the theme for 2011 to 2015 will be “Getting to Zero: Zero new HIV infections. Zero discrimination. Zero Aids-related deaths.”

The global situation of HIV as shared by WHO revealed that in 2010 alone, 34 million people worldwide were living with HIV, 2.7 million new infections were occurring and 1.8 million Aids-related deaths have occurred.


In 2008, the University of the Philippines-Diliman’s Department of Demography estimated that about 12,000 Filipinos were infected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV).

In 2009, the Department of Health declared the Philippines to be HIV/Aids epidemic area with total reported cases of 4,400.

In January 2010 alone, 135 cases were reported, the highest ever recorded in a month in the Philippines.

According to the report of the Joint United Nations Program on HIV/Aids (UNAids), the Philippines is one of the nine countries in the world found to have more than 25 percent increase in HIV cases from 2001 to 2011.

Recently in Misamis Oriental, a total of 88 cases have been noted, 52 cases of which were recorded in Cagayan de Oro City alone.

HIV is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system, making the body vulnerable to a host of opportunistic infection that may range from simple colds that is recurrent to pneumonias caused by fungal infections.

HIV may also progress to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (Aids), which is a combination of several signs and symptoms that result from the body’s inability to defend itself from illnesses.

Experts share that telltale signs of infection are not apparent for HIV patients. As a matter-of-fact, they may not even experience any and they look as healthy as a normal uninfected individual.

Generally speaking, it is not who or what you are that determines HIV infection but rather it’s what you do. This makes HIV infection a behavioral and mostly a social issue.

HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex with an infected person, blood infected via transfusion or use of contaminated instruments and pregnant HIV positive women to their unborn children.

Experts also stress that only blood, semen and vaginal fluids can transmit HIV; not tears, saliva or sweat.

Most health experts from the medical and social sciences agree that the most effective way to prevent and protect yourself from HIV infection is to abstain from having sex and to engage in a monogamous relationship. Otherwise, safe sex with the proper and consistent use of condom is advocated.

While the severity and lethality of HIV/Aids manifestations and complications are often enough to tell the horrors of living with this communicable condition, surviving its social implications that may range from discrimination, prejudice and stigma to ostracization may prove to be most unbearably painful.

I remember one story that made headlines early this year in a national paper of a man positive for HIV and how his dentist refused to render an oral prophylaxis on him probably fearful of contracting the disease from his patient.

Another similar story was featured months later of another HIV-positive man and how his pre-need insurance plan refused to pay for his medical coverage since HIV-related sickness are allegedly beyond their scope of coverage.

A third example is an HIV-positive woman who had been refused for a surgical operation by her surgeon upon learning of her positive HIV status.

Once people learn of the HIV status of another individual, the latter is often subject to being outcast from the mainstream society, making HIV/Aids not only a medical but also a cultural concern.

HIV/Aids is like a modern-day leprosy that is wrapped with fear, discrimination and ignorance.

Learning about the state of HIV/Aids in our country and how people positive for it have been mistreated and discriminated would somehow tell us how dejecting it is to live with such a disease.

Advancement in science has led to the quest of cure and possibly a vaccine against HIV.

But what if there is a social function behind these? What if there is wisdom on top of the morbidity and mortality due to HIV/Aids? In a way it leads us to think that maybe HIV/Aids continues not only to exist but also to rise in statistics as a way of painting the picture of man’s state of modern-day morality.

Perhaps the functions of this dreaded and insidious communicable sickness are to control the sexual behaviors of the sexually-able individuals, the non-engagement to premarital sex, the inhibition of homosexual activities and the encouragement of a monogamous relationship which is a hallmark of an advanced society in anthropologic theory.

In a way, I am not so optimistic about finding treatment for HIV/Aids. Imagine the kind of world we would have with no sexual inhibitions as HIV/Aids are readily curable just like any colds or fever.

I empathize with the sentiments of the church and other religious institutions that a sound moral judgment in terms of sexual behavior is the most effective way to prevent HIV/Aids.

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Published in the Sun.Star Cagayan de Oro newspaper on December 04, 2012.


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