Posts tagged: HIV discrimination

The “Ew” factor : The status of HIV stigma

On March 21, 1994 (back when Stephen Spielberg rocked the mullet), a fresh-faced Tom Hanks double-timed it up the steps of the Dorothy Chandler Pavilion in L.A. to accept his Academy Award for Best Actor in a Leading role.

Pitted against Sir Anthony Hopkins for The Remains of the Day, Daniel Day- Lewis for In the Name of the Father, Lawrence Fishburne in What’s Love Got to Do with It, and Liam Neeson for Schindler’s List, Hanks won his golden statue for his role as a gay man dying of AIDS who combats stigma and discrimination in Philadelphia.

Voice choked with emotion, Hanks ended his speech with a moving cry to action and tolerance:

“I know that my work, in this case, is magnified by the fact that the streets of heaven are too crowded with angels. We know their names. They number a thousand for each one of the red ribbons that we wear here tonight. They finally rest in the warm embrace of the gracious creator of us all – a healing embrace, that cools their fevers, that clears their skin and allows their eyes to see the simple, evident, common-sense truth that is made manifest by the benevolent creator of us all and was written down on paper by wise men, tolerant men in the city of Philadelphia 200 years ago.”

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HIVS/AIDS in Pregnant Women in Sub-Saharan Africa

In North America, the general population is fairly educated about the HIV/AIDS epidemic; however, this is not the case on the African continent. HIV/AIDS is generally transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, contaminated blood transfusions, and used hypodermic needles. Prevention is possible, but there is no definite cure. Roughly sixty percent of all AIDS victims are women, and they are twice as likely to contract HIV through heterosexual intercourse than a man – the main cause of transmission in Sub-Saharan Africa. Women often face the problem of becoming pregnant while infected with AIDS. A study from 2009 states that close to thirty percent of South African pregnant women were living with HIV – a figure which has barely shifted over the past few years. Women infected with HIV/AIDS live very difficult lives while faced with discrimination and the possibility of passing on the virus to their children.

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Preventing Mother to Child Transmission Needs Mercy and Compassion

Today, HIV/AIDS has become a disease that has knocked on the doors of almost every country in the world. Populations have had traumatic experiences that will be hard to forget any time soon. People have died living loved ones uncared for or to be the burdens of other family members. Young ones have died leaving behind elderly parents that have no one to care for them. If these stories are to stop we need to make sure that the next generation is saved. And for now, the surest way to go about it is by implementing PMTCT (Prevention of mother-to-child transmission) programs and using them as effectively as possible.

If that isn’t done then we will be facing a crisis where the infected children of tomorrow will have to face a horrible future. Even today, as the world has risen to fight against the disease, there are challenges in the form of ignorance, sheer hatred and weak mentality against the people living with HIV/AIDS that will make PMTCT of no use at all.

The simplest and most common effect of this is the stigmatization and discrimination that is being meted out to these poor souls in almost every part of the world. But, these two pale in comparison to the horror stories that are being told about the hell that children are being put through because they are HIV positive. While although not an excuse, one can understand harm coming to them from outside the home, these children are increasingly facing cruelty from their own families; the only people that they could trust and rely on for love and protection. Read more »

Canada Piloting Controversial Program To Eliminate HIV/AIDS

Once again, we’re after the one percent. But this time, it’s to help them out; the British Columbia Ministry of Health in Canada has just launched a massive four year, $48 million program in the hopes of eradicating HIV/AIDS – by means of detecting and treating the disease faster than ever.  In the spirit of leaving no stone unturned, this pilot program aims to test everyone in the province who has ever been sexually active.

Routine tests in hospitals throughout B.C. have shown that one percent are unaware of being HIV-positive, having no outward signs of infection. These people are the targets of B.C.’s revolutionary program. As Reta Gustafson, Medical Director of Communicable Disease Control for Vancouver Coastal Health, puts it matter-of-factly, “If you have HIV and don’t know it, you can’t do anything [to get treated].” Discovery of such cases, if progress is to be made, cannot rely solely on fluke. It is with this in mind that a new HIV antibody test is being implemented. The test requires but a single drop of blood from a person’s fingertip, and yields results in 30 seconds. Developed in Vancouver, it has been dubbed “A very important new step” in the worldwide fight against HIV by Dr. Julio Montaner, director of B.C.’s Centre for Excellence in HIV/AIDS.

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Pregnant Women Reluctant to Be Tested For HIV/AIDS

Knowing beforehand whether or not a pregnant women is infected with HIV/AIDS is a key factor in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of the disease. Nothing can be sadder than watching children slowly and painfully wither away. It becomes heartbreakingly painful when taking into consideration the fact that with the help of HIV/AIDS testing, this needn’t be the case. However, an alarming number of pregnant women in Africa have been found to be reluctant to take an HIV/AIDS test1.

It has been known for quite some time now that pregnant women that are tested for HIV can be treated with a regimen that prevents mother-to-child transmission (MTCT). The latest guidelines from the World Health Organization (WHO) suggest that should a pregnant mother be diagnosed with HIV, she should start her PMTCT regimen as early as 14 weeks into her pregnancy and follow it strictly until the birth of her child. If these guidelines are strictly adhered to the chances of a baby being born infected are very low.

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Human Trafficking and HIV/AIDS – Double Jeopardy

Human trafficking is defined as the illegal transportation of people from one country to another. The victims are, more often than not, young girls or women who have either been forcefully coerced or deceived by promises of a better life and/or income. While human trafficking is a global phenomenon, it is more widespread in the developing countries of Africa and Asia.

As if being the victim of human trafficking is not enough hell for the victims, they are finding themselves pushed into its furthest corner by simultaneously being exposed to the scourge of HIV/AIDS. This is because the harsh reality that awaits the women once they reach their destinations (or are abandoned midway there) is one that is filled with the savagery of sexual harassment, rape and being forced into either working long hours for little to no pay, or worse: slaving away in the commercial sex industry.

Many of the trafficked women end up in refugee camps. What should be a place of sanctuary usually opens the door to another level of misery. If they are not raped by men in or outside the camp, they fall victim to the same authorities that are supposed to protect them. While it is quite obvious that the exposure to HIV/AIDS is very high once they have reached their, albeit unintended destinations, it is not limited to just that one ordeal. Read more »

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