Dumaguing: Are HIV and Aids the same?

OUR article on Aids last week has stirred the hornet's nest, so to speak. Our cellphone has been ringing and getting text messages from our readers, patients, and even students.

We are heartened by the profuse expressions of gratitude to discussing openly - in an objective, unemotional way - what used to be talked about in whispers and out of earshot of a possible rumor-monger.

On our part, we also extend our appreciation for the positive and enthusiastic responses and feedback.

Among the issues raised, please allow your columnist to clarify once and for all the term "sero-positive." It appears, many, even professionals are confusing the word with "sero-positive," thinking that how could it be positive, when it is zero, which of course, does not make sense.

Sero refers to serum - or plasma - the fluid portion which makes up for 60 percent of blood, thus, the positive word, indicates there are antibodies now circulating in the blood of that person who had previous exposure to the HIV or human immunodeficiency virus.

Usually, it takes six months before antibodies are formed by a person infected by the retrovirus which is an RNA virus. The screening test which usually detects antibodies is Elisa or enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay. It must be emphasized that, in this period, the infected person may or may not be showing any signs and symptoms. If there are, they are very non-specific, just like a common cold or the flu like low grade fever, coryza or nasal congestion, muscle and joint pains, anorexia or loss of appetite. However, if the person concerned would admit to himself that he had unprotected sex in the immediate past, then he should make it a point to have test, which unknown to many, are now available in most government hospitals and clinics all over the country.

Next issue is, being HIV positive automatically leads to full blown Aids? Admittedly, quite a tricky if not, a very sensitive issue when Aids became a global reality, the diagnosis becomes a death sentence of some sort, because by then, there was no vaccine-still none at this time- and no available, readily accessible drugs or medicines to control and cure the infection.

However, nowadays there are a lot of breakthroughs in medicine especially in the field of pharmacology, which have come up with the so-called Art or anti-retroviral therapy, in the form of "cocktails"- fixed dose combination of several potent and safe meds, which, if taken by the HIV patient, will afford him a life just like the uninfected majority. Fortunately, our government has made it free and accessible to all sectors of the society.

In the interim, however, it must be also emphasized that depending on the immune status, nutritional profile and lifestyle of the patient, he/she can go into myriad variety of illness due to the fact that the immune system - particularly the CD4 - is deficient or very low. TB meningitis is common, uncontrollable profuse diarrheas, a very deadly form lung infection by Pneumocystis carinii and even a skin-connective tissue cancer called Kaposi sarcoma. And do not forget the many opportunistic microbes particularly fungal infections like candidiasis, cryptococossis which can also manifest as meningitis.

Take home message is that, AIDS is still with us. If infected - through sex, needle pricks, maternal-child transmitted - have yourself tested, take the Art religiously, modify lifestyle, eat healthy and with a daily dose of prayers with an unyielding faith on Almighty, we should all overcome Aids, and live a happy fulfilling life. Cheers!
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