D R . E L R O I


Monday, March 31, 2008

I'm Not At Risk - Am I?

That's the title of the book written by Joy and Ray Thomas, it's about HIV/AIDS and the best defense of mankind against it which is Kingdom Living.

Before I tell you about how's my spiritual battle going on, which is to return my distorted sexuality to its original state as created by God, let me discuss to you my thoughts and the knowledge I have acquired from this book as well as the current situation of HIV/AIDS in the Philippines and a little on the global perspective.

Everyone is at risk most especially if there's lack of knowledge about HIV. This disease is considered to be sexually transmitted because more often than not, you can get it through sexual intercourse which is the most common mode of transmission. Blood to blood contact through transfusion or sharing of contaminated needles is also one way how a person can be infected. Another is the mother to child transfer of virus either in the womb, at childbirth or through breastfeeding. In my case, it was through sexual intercourse, having a promiscuous lifestyle and multiple partners. In some countries including the Philippines HIV has been mainly in the homosexual population, but worldwide, it is overwhelmingly a heterosexual disease.

The reality about HIV/AIDS that everyone should be aware of is that at the moment there is no cure for it and it is lethal. Though there is an anti retro-viral therapy available which gives the patients more years of active life, still it's not a cure. The other reality to be faced is that HIV does lead on into AIDS. The occasional patient who has not yet developed full-blown AIDS like me and most of the found cases right now is very much the exception not the rule. The fact is that if you are HIV positive you will at some stage die with AIDS. However, it is also true that if we will change our sexual behaviour, whether you're gay or straight, then AIDS can be stopped!

When a person is infected with the HIV virus, the body begins to produce the antibodies that are specific for that virus alone. However, it takes up to three months before there are enough specific anti bodies in the blood stream to show up in HIV tests. The time between the times of infection until such time that the blood will be positive for antibodies is called the window period. The time that we test for HIV antibodies is when this period is over. It was not applicable to my case because its part of the whole medical exam for my visa application but the result was positive already. So before I started taking ARV treatment 8 months after that, I got myself tested again to ensure that I am really positive because ARV has serious side effects and some of them are fatal that's why it has a trial period of 2 weeks and must be observed up to 18 months.

Normal reactions to a positive HIV are fear, anger, and guilt. There is also an issue of stigma and confidentiality. Fear can be of illness itself, fear of death, or even fear that a previously hidden sexual relationship may now be made known. There is also fear of loss, of health, job and earnings, home or family, relationship, future, and of death. All of these occurred to me before, especially when I lost my future that is the greener pasture in Australia. Now, I have overcome all of these fears somehow through Jesus Christ. Anger will come also, it could be anger to that person who infected you for the reason that it could be he or she knew already and he did not inform you. It could be anger to oneself for being unwary and irresponsible. I thought about it for a brief moment but in the end it was still me to blame, whether I was deliberately infected or not did not matter at all, besides I will never know and I should be responsible to the consequences of my actions. There is also guilt, in my case because of my promiscuity my family suffers emotionally and perhaps later financially coz we're not wealthy. Thank God for He had given me a very understanding and supportive family and not anyone could have that. The issue of stigma and confidentiality is also present. Due to lack of knowledge and correct information on HIV, people tend to reject those who are infected and this happens most of the time. That's why most patients keep it to themselves and hide it. This could be avoided only if the general level of education about HIV/AIDS was higher. This is also the reason why confidentiality is required to hospitals and to us, there's actually a law governing confidentiality on this matter and anyone who violates it commits a crime and is punishable by that law.

Counseling is imperative to HIV/AIDS patients. There should be pre-test counseling and it is necessary to explore the reason for the test and explain its implications. Knowledge on the disease can be checked as well as to what the test is through this. The reason for testing should be identified; the implications of the result and the medical care and social support available should be discussed also during the pre-test counseling. A post test counseling must take place as well especially if the result is positive, so medical appointments can be arranged, immediate concerns can be identified such as dealing with it and who they turn to for support, to whom and what the patient might tell, how to maintain a healthy lifestyle and not infecting others, questions must be encouraged, reactions of shock, disbelief, and anger must be reassured that they are very common, and most importantly is the follow-up. None of these took place in my experience coz the test was required, but it should be followed especially after the result. Receiving a positive HIV test result is like receiving a death sentence, however, far in the future that death may be. That's why availability of counseling is really important to avoid possible suicide attempt of the patient. I must confess that I thought about it several times, thinking on how am I gonna do it. Good thing that I have a friend who referred me to a social support that eventually lead me to my current Christian doctor and hospital who provides everything to me. So I was saved, and honestly I don't think I can do it actually.

According to Joy and Ray Thomas, HIV can be stopped and all these issues and problems can be avoided. Their solution has not been explored yet in my opinion because a lot of patients I knew still continue to engage in casual sex using condom but that is not the solution. Using a condom does not protect anyone coz it might break and the fluid from the body might leak putting the person in a perilous condition. So how can it be stopped? Through change in sexual behavior is an option but God's answer is Kingdom Living.

I'll talk about it on my next post.

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