Dumaguing: Facts and fiction about AIDS

PROBABLY the most misunderstood aspect of AIDS is the transmission of the disease and the usual misconception is that: Myth I. Kissing transmits the virus that causes AIDS.

No. Less than the much- beloved late Princess Diana showed to all and sundry that a peck on the cheek- beso-beso for us Filipinos - does not transfer the disease. Or for that matter, even a smack on the lips, where there is contact between the mucous membranes of the kissing couples would not transmit the disease. However, some doctors are quick to qualify that if the kissing is torrid, which means prolonged kissing involving not only the lips but also tongue exchange of copious amounts of saliva- some call it French kiss- then perhaps the HIVirus may be transmitted.

By now, it is a common knowledge that exchange of body fluids is the main mode of transmission; seminal fluid from an infected male to his unprotected partner that is, venereal transmission or thru the sexual act. Changing mores of conduct and attitude as well as behavior have seen various acts; genital-genital, oro-genital, anal genital, thus AIDS may now present itself with a myriad of unusual signs and symptoms.

Dentists are all agreed that with the oro-genital contact, a person may not only develop AIDS but also oral cancers and in all likelihood caused by the HPV or human papilloma virus. In other words, variations of the couples making love or having sex whether the conventional traditional man-woman or the alternative lifestyle of the homosexuals, if one is infected or sero-positive ( the person has antibodies in his/her blood against the HIV) and the mate is unprotected, then the disease is transmitted.

Persons who require periodic blood transfusions are at risk.

Hemophiliacs lack clotting factor VIII or the AHG- anti hemophilic globulin- so that if they get injured or has a cut, the clotting time is prolonged and they may bleed continuously, thus the need for schedule regular blood transfusion. If the donated blood had not been properly screened and may have been donated by an AIDS patient, the hemophiliac gets the virus. Lately, dengue has presented itself more on the scary hemorrhagic and shock syndrome stage, which requires among other things transfusion of platelet concentrates to abet the bleeding, both internal and external. So, a thorough and strict screening of blood donors cannot be overemphasized.

Addicts are in the short list of potential AIDS victims for the simple reason that when the drug or the “hot stuff" gets too scarce and more importantly expensive, the easy way to "mainline" or to inject is to use needles which may have been used previously by another addict. Of course, we also hear of health care providers- medtechs, nurses and even doctors, which in the process of their professional responsibilities, may have accidentally pricked themselves after acquiring or obtaining blood samples from their AIDS patient.

Newborns may get the virus as they pass thru the birth canal of their mothers who are afflicted with AIDS. Pediatricians are unanimous in telling mothers with AIDS not to breastfeed their babies because their milk contains the virus.

Myth II. Diagnosis of AIDS is a death sentence.

Probably, this is true during the early 80's, when we see the likes of movie idol Rock Hudson, who could afford the best medical care, succumbing to the disease. While it is true that there is still no vaccine to provide protection against the HIVirus, the pharmaceutical industry put to best advantage the genius of geneticists, microbiologists and doctors so that currently, management and treatment of AIDS involves the so-called " cocktails" a combination of anti-viral drugs, protease inhibitors with names like Azidothymidine ( AZT) and DDI or dideoxyinosine. The WHO has worked conscientiously with governments all over the world to raise awareness of the disease, use trimedia to disseminate basic information about the disease to lessen or remove the stigma of the disease, as well as passage or resolutions and laws that would not discriminate an AIDS patient from work and employment. In other words, even after being diagnosed with AIDS, if the person visits his/her clinic for follow up checks and take medications regularly and more importantly, live a healthy lifestyle- no alcohol, quit smoking and no more adventurous unprotected sex, then he/she should live a life as normal people do. Cheers!
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