Dumaguing: Another look at Aids

A FEW days back, hundreds of candles and probably thousands of candles all over the world were lit to commemorate World Aids Awareness Day, with health authorities, patients as well as their loved ones joined hands symbolically to dramatize their concern about the rising menace brought about by the Human Immunodeficiency virus. No less than Ms. Universe 2015, our very own Pia Wurtzbach has zeroed in on the AIDS issue as one of her foremost advocacy.

It must be emphasized at this point that, together with malaria, and tuberculosis- which has become more problematic lately because of bacterial resistance to conventional medicines; Aids is a primary concern of the World Health Organization.

Indeed, what used to be considered a "mysterious disease" of a young man in San Francisco in the early 80's has come a long way. Then, communication lines burned across the Atlantic between the best of minds of microbiologists, infectious disease experts and health scientists. Trying to figure out what that man was really sick of. The combined genius of Dr. John Gallo of the Center for Disease Control in Atlanta, Georgia, USA and Dr. Luc Montagnier of the Pasteur Institute of Paris, France led to the discovery of the AIDS virus, an RNA retrovirus which, as claimed by epidemiologists originated Sub-Saharan Africa where natives found as a delicacy the brain of an ochre-colored monkey called Cercopithecus sabeus.

At that time, Aids was linked to the so-called 4 Hs- homosexuals, Haitians, hemophiliacs and heroin- obviously in reference to the most common mode of transmission of the virus, which involves some kind of piercing as in injections, seen among addicts , hence the heroin connection, or the need for regular blood transfusions among hemophiliacs, the so-called unconventional unsafe sexual practices of homosexuals and the Haitian, supposedly due to the migration of folks from Africa to the Caribbean nation. Of course, as more research and studies were done, the Haitian connection was erased, in fairness to the good people of Haiti.

As the disease unfolded, the different signs and symptoms posed a big challenge to the medical world because more and more victims succumbed to the dreaded disease with mounting rise in death rates. Aids hugged more attention when big name celebrities- actors, athletes of world-renown admitted to having it. Pharmaceutical firms scrambled to formulate a vaccine which was a daunting task, admittedly by the very nature of the HIV, being a retrovirus, it can use its RNA to take over the DNA of the host cell- the T4 lymphocyte, also known as "helper or inducer lymphocyte" which in simple terms, help induce produce antibodies to fight infection, thus the word Aids becomes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Putting things in their proper perspective, the HIV is a virus that attacks the immune or defense system of the body. The virus kills certain cells in the body that normally fight off infection and disease. A blood test would show if a person is HIV positive or HIV negative. However, it must be stressed at this point that most people who are HIV positive do not have AIDS, which means that they have the virus inside their bodies but they do not have yet the signs and symptoms of the full-blown disease. That's the reason why, the Aids awareness program of almost all countries in the world is to catch folks who might have been exposed and have the HIV hiding in their bodies, thus with the appropriate treatment, would save them from the moral effects of Aids.

Next Week: Facts and Fiction about Aids.

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