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Posts Tagged ‘stigma’

December 1st is celebrated as World AIDS Day to spread awareness to people about the disease AIDS and how people can help prevent it, how we can reduce the stigma attached to it through disseminating information.I thought I would take this opportunity to explain to my readers what exactly AIDS is and what HIV is and what people should know about this malady.

HIV is a virus – Human Immuno Deficiency Virus – that reduces the strength of the immune system, the defense mechanism of our body to fight diseases. An analogy would be how a nation is exposed to enemy attack if its defenders, the army, become weak.

AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The HIV starts attacking the body’s immune system cells. You have all heard of white blood cells in our body that are the fighter cells against diseases. One type of such fighter cells are CD 4 T-cells. Normal CD4 counts in adults range from 500 to 1,500 cells per cubic millimeter of blood. As HIV virus start killing these CD 4 Cells, their number starts reducing in the body making our body vulnerable to catching infections very easily. Once this count decreases to a level of about 200 cells or less, the person is said to be suffering from AIDS.

It may take years before a HIV infected person becomes an AIDS patient. It sometimes takes 10 to 15 years for the disease to manifest fully. Till such time, the person may not even be aware of the infection. The virus resides and spreads through body fluids like blood, seminal fluid in men and vaginal secretions in women.

The HIV virus spreads through sexual contact between two persons, one of them being infected. outwardly the infected person may look as normal as anybody else. we would not know their background or sexual habits. Hence it is extremely dangerous to have sex with an unknown person or to have one night stands or to have multiple sexual partners. Since social stigma is heavy upon this issue, many a times, the infected persons would hide the fact from their partners and stealthily spread the disease. HIV can spread through infected blood transfusion or sharing of injectable needles among drug abusers or it can transfer to a new born child from an infected pregnant mother, either before delivery or during delivery or through breast feeding.

Other than the above modes, HIV does not spread through body contact like shaking the person’s hand or by hugging or by sharing bed clothing’s or even utensils in the kitchen. It also does not spread through mosquito bites or any other insect bites.

There are medicines that can control the progress of the infection, i.e., further spreading of HIV to other Cells. There are many people who are infected with HIV, but are on medication and who are leading a normal life. But they need to take extreme care of health and hygiene not to subject themselves to any kind of infections. We have even heard of cases of two HIV infected persons marrying each other and continuing the medication very strictly, thus improving the quality of their life. A person on medication needs to regularly undergo blood testing wherein a CD 4 cell count is done to monitor its number and also a load testing of the Virus in blood. The medicines are to be taken life long. The available treatment now is the Anti Retroviral Therapy or ART. The medicines are very costly and they are being distributed to the persons infected at a subsidized rate by our government.

Once the immune system becomes weak, there are many opportunistic diseases like, TB, Meningitis that affects the brain, Pneumonia that affects the lungs and oral candidiasis that attack the person’s body and that can lead to various complications in other organs too and thus an AIDS patient meets his death. As of now, there are no medicines that can cure AIDS.

You can browse the Net for further detailed information on HIV and AIDS. Please spread this awareness and help prevent AIDS.

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yesterday was world epilepsy day – a day to bring awareness to public about epilepsy, a neurological disorder wherein there is a disturbance in the normal electrical activity of the brain. this disturbance causes seizures (‘fits’ in lay person’s language). it may affect the consciousness or the behaviour or the sensory perception of the affected person. the type of seizure, its manifestation varies from person to person. it can be fully cured by a very strict regimen of medication for about 3 to 5 years, depending on the individual case.

there is a big social stigma attached to this disorder and hence many a times the disorder is hidden by the family members and not given the required treatment. lay people are sometimes taken aback by the affected person’s behaviour as they do not have knowledge about this condition. this makes them develop certain myths and misconceptions about this condition and hence a stigma gets attached to the condition.

as a mental health worker i would like to inform you all that epilepsy is not to be feared or hidden from society. the condition generally occurs during childhood, but it can manifest at any age during adulthood too. the causes of seizures may be infections, like, encephelitis, brain injury due to fall or motor accident, high fever (febrile fits), in some people even head bath with hot water or it can occur due to any structural abnormality in brain that has occured during the developmental stage of the brain. it can just be a single episode of seizure in a person’s lifetime or many such episodes can occur, when it is called epileptic seizure.

it is very important to get the person the due medical attention. the condition should never be neglected or ignored. left untreated, it can cause further damage to brain cells or can even cause gradual impairment of intellectual faculties like perception, understanding, memory or thinking. family physicians, pediatricians or neurologists can treat this condition. diagnostic procedure like EEG (Electro Encephalogram) can determine the specific area of abnormal electric activity in the brain. CT scan or MRI can detect any abnormal growth like tumours in the brain. treatment and dosage depend on the age, family history, probable cause and the pattern of seizures. duration of medication is usually for 3 to 5 years.

there are people who have fought this condition bravely, kept it under control and have made huge achievements in life. Mr. Jonty Rhodes, world famous cricketer of south africa, is brilliant on the field and is a good batsman. our own bangalorean, Mr. K.C.Janardhan, is a world famous calligrapher (handwriting expert) whose services are used by many Management Institutions abroad and in India. thus people with epilepsy are as normal as any of us and may exceed us in many capabilities. it is the obligation of every one of us to render them support, encouragement and accord total respect to them as a productive member of our society.

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