A Spotlight on HIV and AIDS: The Way Forward in Three Parts, Part 1

image(Facebook/HIV Stops With Me: Health and Wellness Website.)

The impact of HIV and AIDS affects everyone globally. They are many factors that causes the rate of global infection such as poverty, lack of access to proper health care, gender imbalance, culture, lack of access to education, oppressive political governments, and high unemployment, just to name a few factors.

This is to say that HIV and AIDS is a developmental and social disease.

Most people all over the world have either met, have been affected, or became a person living with the disease. This is a discourse on the impact of HIV and AIDS, and how the newest information and knowledge about contracting the disease and its origins should be part of the everyday dialogue.

In the first part of a three-part series related to HIV and AIDS and the way forward, we will be discussing the scientific origins, as well as various modes of transmitting the disease now.

It has been over 30 years since the first suspected case of HIV and AIDS. And last year July marked the 20th anniversary of the International AIDS Conference held in Melbourne, Australia. Both of these are milestones for HIV and AIDS awareness, so as a result it has brought the struggle, causes, and fight against this global disease into everyone’s cultural life.

While the disease was arguably discovered during the 1980s, there is new evidence to suggest that it was born and made its way from the African continent to the rest of the world 60 years earlier. A study – that was led by researchers Oliver Pybus of Oxford University, and Philippe Lemey of the University of Leuven in Belgium – have determined that the global disease came from Kinshasa, which is now called the Democratic Republic of Congo, in the 1920s.

How did the disease move from person to person, and how did it spread from an almost remote region like Kinshasa at the time? It was animals, bartering, and trains. According to Pybus and Lemey’s study the HIV-1 virus was a chimpanzee virus. This type of HIV-1 virus came in several varieties and existed in various genetic groups that were rare. The rare grouping is known as group M.

The researchers came up with two useful consequences for the evolution of the HIV-1 virus’ group M. Firstly, a family tree indicated the rate of genetic change at a reasonably constant state when the various branches diverged. Secondly, the virus’ genotype varied from location to location depending on where it first came from. It was the change in location that allowed Pybus and Lemey to track the origin in detail.

Animals, a migrating population, trains, and changing times were the reasons for the mode of transmission and the spread of infection. The virus did indeed jump from primates to humans through blood from monkeys; and, the trading of goods and services (some of those goods would have been monkeys, its meat and skin), a migrating populace, and the expansion of the Belgian railways would have contributed to the spread.

Also, the introduction of sex workers would have contributed to the transmission rate and the expansion of the virus. According to the researchers, it is because of sex workers and their demand by the 1940s more one million had traveled through Kinshasa every year by way of the railways.

With the introduction of Haitian professionals who came to the Congo to help after that region’s independence, those professionals would have brought it back to their country and to the U.S. It was by 1981 that U.S. doctors started to realize the existence of HIV. It was only by the 1990s with the introduction of anti-retrovial therapy that slowed down the spread of the disease.

In the 21st Century the rate has stabilized, but it appears to be highest among young people between the ages of 13 to 24, according to the Center for Disease Control. And they are 60 percent of those young people who are not aware that they are infected. Those infected have been identified as gay or bisexual.

How the disease is transmitted is something as simple as monogamy, using condoms or not using them, and sexual positions. They are seven ways that one can get HIV.

1. Monogamy is not 100 percent fool proof. Most people enter into a monogamous relationship thinking that the other person has not slept around. Or, that on their wedding night they should not use condoms. It is a safer bet to get yourselves both tested before you consummate the relationship or use condoms.

2. Lack of condom use could break both hearts. While some might think that not using condoms ruins the intimacy, it is better to protect yourself. Whether one is having fun on their vacation with their significant other or having fun with some one else, it is best to protect yourself or insist that they use one.

3. Drugs and alcohol affects everything. If one adds or mixes drugs and alcohol to one intimate night it impairs their judgment and throws his or her libido out of whack. In other words, one who is trying to manage their sexual experience is not helping themselves or any one else by limiting their thinking.

4. Just because you don’t ask that does not mean he/she has to tell you. One assumes that if a person is HIV+ that they would share their health status. This is not so. If you want a safe sexual experience you should protect yourself.

5. Sexual positions is not a deterrent in contracting the disease. It has been perceived that contracting the virus is through anal sex, or “bottoming” for sex in between men. Some men who are “tops” or “givers” assume that they could not contract the virus. This is a common misconception. Whether the person is “giving” or receiving” they are both at risk for contracting the virus. Both should protect themselves.

6. The invincibility complex is not fool proof. Some people who use most precautions and slip up one or more times, some think that they are not high risk. The truth is everyone is at risk.

7. Intravenous drug use is back on the rise. In southwestern Indiana there is a growing concern for IV drug use. The drug of choice is prescription medication, a painkiller called Opana.

At the moment they are 26 confirmed cases of HIV linked to Opana injection usage and a few linked to sexual transmission. This is considered the largest HIV outbreak.

Karyn Hascal, president of the Healing Place in Louisville, stated that injectable drugs such as “prescription pills and narcotics” are being abused now as much as they were in past.

(Latin Post, The Advocate, USA Today)

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