COVID-19 seems to be at the receiving end of every missed target, it is the first name to pop up when countries even face mismanagement of their economies through incompetence or sheer greed. I do agree COVID-19 did and continues to disrupt many aspects of our lives BUT should we continue to blame it for everything? I do not know the answer, but we all need to start asking more questions.
Long before COVID-19 made its unwelcome entry onto mother Earth, healthcare in general including HIV/AIDS failed to effectively reach those who were most vulnerable. 2020 and 2021 seem to have even made many more people worse off. The theme for this year’s WORLD AIDS DAY sums it all up – END INEQUALITIES. END AIDS; “with a special focus on reaching people left behind, WHO and its partners are highlighting the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services.” – WHO.
COVID-19, reminds us daily of the benefits of a robust immune system and that makes it even more important to know our status, use the appropriate modes of prevention of infection and access to appropriate services to manage our condition if we have the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) to avoid a situation where our immune system breaks down completely.
Key facts on HIV/AIDS
1. HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed more than 35 million lives so far.
2. In 2020; 680,000 people died from HIV-related causes globally.
3. There were approximately 38 million (37,700,000) people living with HIV at the end of 2020 with 1.5 million people becoming newly-infected in 2020 globally.
4. Africa is the most affected region, with 25.7 million people living with HIV in 2017.
5. African also accounts for over two thirds of the global total of new HIV infections.
6. Key populations often have legal and social issues related to their behaviour that increase vulnerability to HIV and reduce access to testing and treatment programmes.
Ghana’s Estimates in 2019
1. Number of people living with HIV (PLHIV) – 342,307 and the majority of these are females
2. Estimated number of New HIV infections – 20,068
3. Estimated number of AIDS-Related Deaths – 13,618
It is worth refreshing our memory with some facts. Let us neither judge nor stigmatize persons living with HIV because it does not in any way reflect the person’s morals or character. Stigmatization only leads to people “shying” away from help and may even play a role in spreading HIV. Let us all work together to end this epidemic; governments, businesses and individuals all have roles to play.
In general direct contact with certain fluids from people with a “detectable viral load” puts us at risk and these include; blood, semen, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
These do not spread HIV:
1. Hugging an infected person
2. Cough or Sneeze of an infected person
3. from tears, sweat, vomit or urine
4. Sharing a toilet seat or water fountain
5. Drinking from same glass or eating from same plate
6. Eating food prepared by someone with HIV
7. Mosquito or other insect bite
8. In general kissing may only spread if both person with HIV and the one without have bleeding gums and or cuts in the mouth*
Known paths to HIV transmission:
1. Unprotected vaginal and anal sex. Oral sex is possible but not as common as the previous 2.
2. Sharing of needles
3. Tattooing and piercing may also have a level of risk though not common
4. When you touch an open wound of someone with HIV and you have a cut yourself
5. From mother to baby during child birth (when appropriate precautions not taken) or through breast milk
6. Blood transfusion is an extremely rare path with current screening methods of donated blood*
7. Having an untreated sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as gonorrhoea can increase ones risk.
It is also worth knowing that the use of alcohol and other “recreational” drugs may impair ones judgement and increase ones risk of contracting HIV through unprotected sex.
AS ALWAYS LAUGH OFTEN, ENSURE HYGIENE, WALK AND PRAY EVERYDAY AND REMEMBER IT’S A PRICELESS GIFT TO KNOW YOUR NUMBERS (blood sugar, blood pressure, blood cholesterol, BMI)
Dr. Kojo Cobba Essel
Health Essentials Ltd/ St Andrews Clinic/Mobissel
*Dr Essel is a medical doctor, holds an MBA and is ISSA certified in exercise therapy, fitness nutrition and corrective exercise.
Thought for the week – “In Ghana December is THE VACCINATION MONTH FOR COVID-19. Do whatever it takes to get vaccinated. You protect yourself and others and also help to reduce transmission and the formation of more variants. GET VACCINATED NOW!”