THIS AID'S DAY:LETS'S CHANGE OUR MINDSET
30 November, 2017
With HIV detected in Nepal in 1988, the disease brought myriad misconceptions with its first diagnosis. Because of the lack of research, medication and awareness, HIV was considered a highly communicable disease which is spread through physical touch or external agents. With much research and awareness work conducted, people’s view of the infection started to take a positive turn. However, some misconceptions of HIV still persist.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus is one of the lethal diseases that has been claiming millions of lives across the world. Though with the help of numerous breakthroughs in technology and scientific research, the infection has been suppressed through various medicinal researches and therapies but the virus has proved to be completely incurable till date.
According to HIV estimates in Nepal 2016 issued by National Center for AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) and STD (Sexually Transmitted Disease) Controls, as many as 32,735 are living with HIV, of which 20,232 are males and 12,503 are females, while 1,771 AIDS related deaths are reported annually. According to HIV estimates in Nepal 2016 by UNAIDS, 18,000 (56 percent)of the infected people know their status while 13000 (40percent) of the infected people are on Antiretroviral Therapy (ART).
With HIV detected in Nepal in1988, the disease brought myriad misconceptions with its first diagnosis. Because of the lack of research, medication and awareness, HIV was considered a highly communicable disease which is spread through physical touch or external agents. With much research and awareness work conducted, people’s view of the infection started to take a positive turn. However, some misconceptions of HIV still persist.
HIV which is transmitted through the virus entering the bloodstream from infected bodily fluid like blood, semen, vaginal fluids or breast milk. During the initial stages of replication called the latency period, a person may not show any major symptoms for up to 8 years making the virus lethally continues to replicate inside the body until the indication of some major symptoms.
HIV affects the T-helper cells (CD4) which are a type of white blood cell that play important role in our immune system that help defend the body against bacterial and fungal infections. If not diagnosed and treated in time HIV eventually kills off the T-cells resulting to the fall of these cells below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood causing AIDS which implies that the immune system is highly susceptible to cancers and infections like pneumonia. The infected person does not die from AIDS they rather die from frail immunity and illness that the body could not fend off.
From the virus transferred from infected male to female and vice-versa, many cases of HIV infection in Nepal emerged from the criminal practices of child trafficking where the girls were forced to prostitution and diagnosed to be HIV positive when undergoing screening. In the year of 1996, Goma Rai was rescued from a brothel in Mumbai. Being lured by the idea of earning income and supporting her family at home in Khotang, she was led to Mumbai without being aware that she had been trafficked at a tender age of 14. Spending four months of her life in severe physical and psychological abuse, she was rescued with many other children from the brothel to return home.
Upon returning from India she underwent a test screening where she was diagnosed an HIV positive. With many counseling and trainings that she gain, Goma summed up the courage to initiate a campaign to empower the HIV infected persons particularly women and children who were the vulnerable victims of the societal abuses.
Partially healed from the trauma Goma founded Shakti Milan Samaj to join hands with the victims and empower them through counseling and awareness campaigns. When asked if the plight of HIV patients has been provided with equal participation in the society, Founder and Executive Director of Shakti Milan Samaj, Goma Rai said, “Though the situation has improved with time, there is yet a long journey for us to have our equal participation. More than the lack of awareness I think lack of sensitivity and acceptance and sense of indifference have HIV infected people being stigmatized in their social periphery.
The stigma remains as HIV relates with sexual activity which is regarded as a taboo to be talked about in public. Hundreds and thousands of infected people in Nepal have lost their lives due to their reluctance to open up in public about their infection giving rise to the scenario where they are not screened and provided antiretroviral drug in time which is used to slow the virus down by blocking certain enzymes eventually suppressing the virus to multiply. With antiretroviral therapy most HIV positive people expect to live long and healthy lives and are much less likely to infect others.
Nevertheless, for the virus to be diagnosed in time it is very crucial for the infected people to come forth and talk about it. “Having provided the facility of conducting screening test and providing antiretroviral drugs free of cost in Shukraraaj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital by the Government of Nepal, the situation for infected people from poor economic status has worked in better ways to suppress HIV,” said Medical Officer at Shukraraaj Tropical and Infectious Disease Hospital, Dr Parmeshwori Shrestha.
“Therapy only improves their anatomy but with the motivation that they receive, it can boost their will power and confidence to fight the virus making them psychologically sound and healthy,” added Shrestha.