The Last Kiss is running…
THE LAST KISS
Alicia stands in the car park of the huge edifice before her with contentment. Curtis has just helped her out of the car and is worried her stomach will burst any time soon.
She is in the ninth month of her pregnancy and she feels okay. A little heavy but that is understandable.
Now, when she stands, all you see is her bulging belly. She has not lost her beauty though, like most women do. She is still her sweet, beautiful self.
Curtis locks up and walks hand in hand with his wife to the forecourts of the beautiful building before them.
The much-awaited forum for people living HIV/AIDS is finally here. The forum had to be rescheduled two times to make it possible for the First Lady to be present.
Alicia mounts the stage after the opening ceremonies and looks at the crowd gathered with a warm glow of hope and happiness inside her heart.
She is happy to see this day. To see people living with HIV/AIDS and their caregivers, friends and family gather for a common cause.
She takes the microphone from Ekow Styles who has grown happier every day. His Dad is more supportive of him now and his step mom has given birth to twin girls a couple of months back.
Alicia gives a brief welcome address and introduces the key experts present to the group of people who have become family now.
“It’s really an honour to be here today. I know we all have our high and low times dealing with our diagnoses but I’m happy you all put off whatever you had planned for this day to be here. Together, we can fight this. I stand here proud that those of us living with HIV and AIDS have come together and formed groups in the various districts and communities in the country.
I will encourage each one of us to participate in all activities and meetings. We have in our midst a general practitioner, a gynaecologist, a dietician and a clinical psychologist. I will call on Dr. Godfred Boakye as he takes us through the HIV disease.”
Dr. Boakye gets up from his seat and walks to the podium while the crowd applause. He takes the microphone from the heavily pregnant Alicia.
Alicia walks off the stage and sits in the crowd, with Curtis right by her side.
Dr. Boakye clears his throat and speaks.
“Thank you, Alicia for making this possible. I know you don’t want to take credit for this but you started it and the good people here supported your idea. We, in the health service are thrilled by a forum like this. We are really proud of you and everyone who made it a point to be here today.
At a forum like this, I think it will be only prudent to delve into what HIV/AIDS is all about and how to effectively manage it. Most of you have heard bits and pieces but I’m sure you still have unanswered questions. There are some of you too who have tested positive to HIV but are at a loss as to what the disease is, how it works and how to effectively manage it.
Like any incurable disease, the keys to effective management are knowledge, a team of experts to work with and lifestyle changes. I will therefore, take a few minutes to talk about the disease. I’ve designed this talk under these headings:
What is HIV?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). HIV attacks the body’s immune system by killing CD4 positive T cells. T-cells are white blood cells that are critical to the functioning of the immune system.
HIV is a progressive disease that ultimately results in an immune system that is less and less strong to fight infection, disease, and cancer. People with HIV/AIDS are more susceptible to ‘opportunistic infections’ by viruses and bacteria which many healthy persons without HIV/AIDS have no difficulty in fighting.
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS, but medication can reduce the amount of the virus in the body, hence hampering the virus’ total destruction of the immune system.
How is HIV transmitted?
HIV can be contracted by anyone, regardless of ethnicity, age group, sexual orientation, and sex. HIV can be specifically transmitted by vaginal, oral and or anal intercourse. However, HIV cannot be spread by mosquitoes, phones, saliva, shaking hands, sharing eating utensils, swimming pools, and toilet seats. Having a sexually transmitted disease can increase the likelihood of contracting HIV. But most cases of HIV are transmitted during heterosexual sex. In many countries, women are more rapidly becoming infected with the HIV virus than men.
The highest risk factors for contracting HIV include:
- Having unprotected sex with someone who is HIV-infected.
- Using needles, syringes, razor blades and other sharp objects used by someone who is HIV-infected.
- Receiving blood or transplanted organs from someone who is HIV-infected.
- Passing HIV-infection from mothers to children through breastfeeding, pregnancy, or birth.
Symptoms of HIV
Symptoms of HIV appear at different times for different people. In fact, there is a great deal of difference in timing and manifestation of HIV symptoms. For example, some symptoms of HIV may take as long as ten (10) years before they manifest in adults but children born with HIV may develop symptoms of the virus within two (2) years. Regardless of the appearance of symptoms however, if a person contracts HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus will infect, attack, and kill T cells.
In general, symptoms of HIV are usually not present when a person becomes initially infected. One to two months after infection, however, a person may have enlarged lymph nodes (in the neck and groin), fever, headache, and feel tired. Because these symptoms resemble the flu and pass after a week or month, these symptoms alone are often mistaken for other illnesses. The HIV virus can be transmitted to other people during this time. When symptoms do become more severe, they may include the following:
- Development of shingles
- Frequent and severe herpes infections
- Frequent fevers and sweats
- Increasing sickness in children
- Lack of energy
- Persistent skin rashes or flaky skin
- Short-term memory loss
- Slow development in children
- Swollen lymph nodes lasting for more than 3 months
- Weight loss
Women may experience additional symptoms of the HIV virus, including more frequent Human Papillomavirus (HPV) infections; more frequent and severe pelvic inflammatory disease; and more frequent and severe vaginal yeast infections.
When to Seek Help
If you engage in any behaviours that could increase the likelihood of contracting HIV e.g. unprotected sex; using needles used by other people, etc., or if you experience any of the above symptoms, you should see your doctor for HIV screening.
Although there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, successful treatment can significantly reduce the number of infected cells in the body. HIV treatment can inhibit the progression of HIV, thus increasing the survival rate. HIV infected mothers, for example, can significantly decrease the likelihood of their baby contracting HIV by a prompt treatment plan.
In some cases, successful HIV medical treatment can slow down progression of the illness to the point of making the HIV virus undetectable. This does not mean, however, that a person is safe from transmitting HIV. Regardless of the remission of the HIV virus, an HIV positive person still has and can transmit the HIV virus.
If you are HIV positive, take steps now so that you can protect your health in the future. You may be able to delay AIDS with proper treatment. We also recommend a healthy lifestyle for PLWHAs. Avoid smoking, drinking excessively, and desist from illegal drugs.
If you are HIV positive, take steps to protect your partner from getting infected or re-infected. Talk to a doctor for best advice.
If you are infected, take steps now to protect your future children from getting the disease. Proper preconception and pregnancy evaluation and monitoring will help.
If you are HIV positive, join support groups so that they can help you deal with both the physical and emotional aspects of being diagnosed.
By paying attention to your health, and by seeking treatment for HIV, you and your doctor may have greater control over HIV.”
Dr. Boakye leaves the stage for Dr. Ray Annan, a gynaecologist who gives a detailed speech on pregnancy care with HIV.
Dr. Ray Annan mentions that perinatal HIV transmission, HIV transmission from mother to child during pregnancy, labour, delivery and breastfeeding, is the most common way children are infected with HIV.
He emphasizes that having HIV free children is possible and all it needs is effective management of the disease and adequate monitoring during pregnancy, labour and delivery.
He also mentions that various conception options exist for people living with HIV to have HIV free kids. And then he encourages those yearning to raise HIV free children to consult a doctor for proper evaluation and necessary assistance.
The dietician and clinical psychologist take their turns and given very pertinent advice and encouragement for engagement to help PLWHAs identify mental and growth issues in time.
A question and answer session follow the speeches and participants are offered a chance to answers of their pertinent questions.
Ekow Styles has led the launch of the groups’ fully functional website. It is always a thrill to watch Ekow at work with gadgets and computers.
The First Lady of the country together with the Minister of Health, joins them to commission the multi-purpose health facility that has been made possible by the two incredible ladies of the land.
The specialized health facility commissioned as Journey of Hope Hospital has everything people living with HIV will need from screening, treatment, birth, exercise and meetings.
The media present are not left out as they are offered audience for their pertinent questions for their coverage.
People living with HIV are particularly happy as they network and share experiences with their colleagues, friends, family and the team of health experts.[insert-comment-form]