LIFTING THE LID ON HIV AND AIDS
To understand this entry, one needs to be open minded, non-evaluative and non-judgemental.
Transgender refers to individuals who do not identify with their biological gender. So, for example, transgender women were born as biological males, but identify themselves as women and vice-versa for transmen who were born biologically female but identify as men.
Not too long ago, I was asked to write an article about caregivers for the Nation on Sunday’s Everywoman. In writing it, I was touched by how much dedication, commitment and perseverance and utmost love that caregivers provide. Wives, mothers, grandmothers, aunts, sisters, cousins and on occasion men. Nurses and doctors are also extremely helpful and supportive, their efforts, should also be applauded, nothing can ever prepare you for having a loved one in your home suffering from a chronic illness.
Gene therapy could provide hope for another “functional cure”, a one-off treatment without the use of ARVs.
A cell is the smallest basic unit of all living things (except viruses which are special). The human body is made of 10 000 000 000 0000 cells and they are very small. We have about 200 different types of cells, which have special functions, for example red blood cells are involved in helping us breathe and white blood cells help us fight disease through our immune response.
A very proactive wife in Lusaka charged her HIV positive husband $140 per sexual encounter as a risk allowance. They got married in 2005 and in 2010, the husband tested positive for HIV. After the husband tested positive, the wife allowed him to have sex with a condom, but after a while she started charging him a risk allowance. Her reason for charging him a risk allowance was "a way of keeping him off me and also to save money for me instead of squandering it on prostitutes". She had not received any payment and was having consensual sex with her husband on credit but was seeking a divorce.
Two weeks ago, I wrote about the excitement of the Mississippi (USA) baby who was functionally “cured” of HIV, but she is not the only one. A study in France found that 14 adults who started ARV treatment soon after infection and then stopped, have never had to go back on treatment. Off treatment, eight of the 14 patients for four years have maintained completely undetectable viral loads compared to the Mississippi baby who has been off treatment for only over a year. The study was presented at the Conference on Retroviruses and Opportunistic Infections (CROI 2013) this month in America and published in the scientific journal, PLoS Pathogens.
Most of us women enter marriage confident of a lifetime of love, devotion, commitment, fidelity and financial security. The last thing we think of is the risk of HIV infection. Since the 1990s, there have been increasing numbers of studies on the link between marriage and HIV. Most married women use monogamy or abstinence as a way to prevent HIV infection. While women are being faithful, the same cannot be said for married men who have extramarital affairs, increasing the risk of HIV transmission to their wives.
The last few weeks have been great. I have received a lot of correspondence from readers. A big thank you to all the readers and massive gratitude to all those who take time to drop me an e-mail. Being a columnist can be quite a lonely existence, how do I know if people are reading the column? Or what their reaction is to some of the things I say? I welcome questions, comments, praise (with a lot of humility) and criticisms (I had a lot of concerned readers on prayer and healing).
In 2012, an estimated 600 transgender women were murdered in Latin America because of their gender identity. Transgenders experience stigma, discrimination, abuse, are ostracised from their family and fired from their jobs, this can cause depression, anxiety and psychological stress. Transgender people endure rape, harassment from police and gender-based violence. Many turn to sex work because they have a poor education or cannot find work that doesn’t discriminate against their gender identity.
Are we a step closer to finding a cure? In 2008, Timothy Ray Brown, known as “The Berlin Patient”, was the first person reportedly “cured” of HIV. Six years, since having a series of complex medical procedures, which included chemotherapy and a bone marrow transplant, he has no detectable levels of HIV. This week, the media is in a frenzy over a second possibly cured patient—this time a two-year-child, the Mississippi baby. The infant is now two-and-a-half-year-old and needs no antiretroviral drugs. The baby tested positive for the virus at birth, she became infected because the mother was not tested in early pregnancy and was not given antiretroviral treatment to prevent mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT).