As this country joins the world in observing “Candlelight memorial” to remember those who have died from the disease, and to sensitized the public about the impact and methods of prevention, it is amazing when you reflect on the genesis of this microbiological time bomb, which was first identified in 1981 in five homosexual men in north America; three decades down the road millions are infected, which includes heterosexual men, women and children. After three plus decades HIV remains a challenging reality; true, for many it has become a chronic disease; no longer considered by the infected as a death sentence; however the psychological well-being of the said infected individual is damaged by the relationships one must become actively engaged while seeking services, specifically at the overburdened treatments site.
An HIV infected individual can only experience excellent health, as the end product of biological, psychological and social factors. This article seeks to highlight a couple realities. However before these points are mentioned, what must be mentioned with full respect and heartfelt appreciation is a genuine “thank you” to the overworked, small but dedicated staff at the Medical Research Foundation; this is on behalf of the infected persons who must visit this professionally run treatment site.
Medical Research Foundation presently has a clientele of well over seven thousand clients (7000); there is one phlebotomist, who of course will be overworked, on any given day. This reality can easily facilitate mistakes in this very sensitive activity, just imagine a mix-up of person’s blood, think carefully of all the very possible consequences, just think. Therefore , it is important for all key stakeholders to recognized that quality treatment is a major pillar in ensuring quality and sustainable prevention; quality treatment is quality prevention.
Instead of investing huge sums of money in very irrelevant paraphernalia to accommodate irrelevant awareness projects and programmes, at least a percentage of that money should be invested in establishing more treatment sites; sites that would be easily accessable to such a large clientele that comes from various parts of Trinidad and Tobago.
Do you know what is very frightening about HIV, as it increases at an alarming rate, and quite a large percentage, perhaps 50% of persons who are HIV infected are totally unaware of their HIV positive status, which means they are transmitting the virus with every sexual encounter they have. The double jeopardy; if you speak to almost anyone, they will tell you that they know about HIV, they know what to do and what not to do to protect themselves from becoming HIV infected. The mystery however, after spending millions on awareness projects, how do we convince ourselves and others to transfer “knowledge” into “action”; the reality or evidence of this problem is clear; is it not stated that we have been seeing three new cases for the last nine years.
What is the experience and very possible consequences of the HIV infected person. Just to have your blood taken and collect medication, your stay is no less than four hours at the site. Can you imagine the psychological stress that person goes through. Are you aware that stress produces a wide range of effects on the human body. It is proven that stress compromises the body’s immune system, and you are aware that the immune system is the first line of defence against invaders like HIV; which attacks specialized white blood cells, called lymphocytes. These white cells circulate throughout the bloodstream, searching and destroying trespassers like HIV. When the HIV infected individual have to endure such long agonizing hours for treatment, what is the outcome? The emotions that such an experience elicits weaken the immune system ability to protect from other infections, remember the immune system is already comprised by HIV. The stress brought on by such experiences triggers the release of adrenaline and other stress hormones into the bloodstream, and the hormones tend to suppress immune cell activity, making the HIV infected individual very vulnerable to illness, or opportunistic infections, like the common cold, herpes, and while this is not an infection, coronary heart disease (CHD), this is also a very possible end product of stress.
On behalf of the infected persons I am calling upon the relevant authorities to take a deeper look at the services provided for the infected individual; look also at the impact it is having on the genuine service providers at the Medical Research Foundation and invest to enhance the services, the staff, new treatment sites, really engaged and involve the community.
To the HIV infected individual, know that health springs from optimism, have faith and hope, they are very important parts of your healing process.
Advisory Council Of T&T.
The Voice Of One-Overcomers Club.