Philip S. Chua, Jan 16, 2007
A person between the ages of 15 and 24 around the world is
infected with the HIV every 14 seconds. Or, about 4 cases every
minute. More than thirteen million children today are orphans
because of AIDS.
Globally, there are 42 million people living with HIV today, up
from 40 million in year 2001, and mostly among young people
(15-49). Majority of these live in the poorest countries around
the globe. In Asia and the Pacific, 7.2 million have HIV
infection (more than a million in China alone), a ten percent
increase from 2001. Since the epidemic started in the late 70s,
the total deaths from AIDS worldwide at the end of year 2000 was
21.8 million. Last year alone, 3 million died of AIDS worldwide,
about 8000 a day! Roughly 50% of people with AIDS are women. In
Indonesia, it is reported that 43,000 intravenous drug addicts
were infected with HIV last year, predicted to double by the end
of 2003. In Africa, 25.3 million people have HIV/AIDS. Seventy
five percent of adults and 80% of children with HIV-AIDS live in
Africa, and in year 2000 alone, there were 2.4 million Africans
who died of AIDS and related causes. In Eastern Europe and
Central Asia, 1.2 million; Latin America, 1.9 million (210,000
acquired in 2002); Japan, 83,000 got infected with HIV in 2002.
In the Philippines, there are 1,921 cases of AIDS in 2003, 13
cases of these were acquired thru blood products (about 80% thru
sexual intercourse). This covers the period from January 1984 to
August 2003. In Cebu, the cases of AIDS have stabilized at 56,
and it is encouraging to note that the increase in the entire
country has remained low and slow, compared to other affected
parts of the world.
What is AIDS and what is
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome and HIV
means Human Immunodeficiency Virus, the agent responsible for
the disease. Most of those infected with HIV would develop AIDS
within 12-15 years from the time they were first infected,
according to the World Health Organization.
How does the virus cause
HIV attacks the immune system of the infected person and
destroys the CD4 cells (the “generals” in our immune system
army), rendering the body’s “security force” without its “commanders,”weak
and defenseless to fight off infections. When the immune system
breaks down, opportunistic infections set in and the person
develops serious and deadly infections and certain form of
cancer, all complications of AIDS.
How is AIDS transmitted?
The virus can be transmitted through the following body fluids:
blood, pre-ejaculate fluid, semen, vaginal secretions and breast
milk. There is no evidence that HIV is transmitted through
sweat, tears, urine or saliva, since the concentration in these
body fluids is so small. However, if, say the saliva is
contaminated with blood from bleeding gums or a cut in the mouth
of an AIDS patient, that saliva can transmit HIV. Kissing, in
this situation, is risky.
Can HIV enter the skin?
No, the virus cannot penetrate the skin, unless the skin is cut
or broken, in which case transmission becomes possible. Shaking
hands with an infected person is safe. The virus cannot be
transmitted through the air by sneezing or coughing either.
These are the reasons why casual contact with people with HIV
infection is absolutely not dangerous. The widespread
misinformation and ignorance have led to unnecessary fear in
people’s mind and the added emotional suffering on the part of
victims of AIDS.
How does HIV enter the
The virus enters the bloodstream through mucous membranes, like
the lining of the rectum, the walls of the vagina, the urethra
(passage channel of the penis), nose, mouth and throat, or by
intravenous transfusion of any infected fluid, like blood,
plasma, etc., or use of a contaminated needle. The virus must
get into the blood stream to cause AIDS.
Can one get HIV through
Most definitely, especially the person giving the oral sex,
since she/he is exposed to pre-ejaculate fluid, semen, or
vaginal secretions and menstrual blood. If there is dental
carries, open sores, cut or abrasions in the mouth or gums, the
virus can enter the blood stream even faster. While the risk in
vaginal or anal sex and in giving oral sex is higher than that
of receiving oral sex, the latter form of contact is likewise
risky and could be as deadly.
Can a woman transmit HIV
to the baby in her womb?
Yes, maternal to fetal transmission is obviously the rule since
their individual blood circulation is “connected” with each
Does bleach kill the HIV?
Yes, Chlorox (bleach), with high concentration of Chlorine,
kills HIV. This is what “smart” or experienced drug addicts use
to “sterilize” their needles and other paraphernalia used in
“pushing” narcotics and other illegal drugs. However, there is
no guarantee that this practice is effective, since the
sterilization technique could be flawed.
Are condoms effective?
The use of latex condoms has been proven to be effective in the
prevention of HIV infection and other sexually-transmitted
diseases (STDs). However, condoms are known to develop holes or
tears during rough handling or during the actual sex act, which
will then allow disease transmission. The best practice is not
to have sex with someone who could be exposed to HIV or other
sexually-transmitted diseases. Those with multiple partners have
been shown to be at a greater risk, compared to partners who are
How soon does HIV
infection lead to AIDS?
A blood test that is negative for HIV does not guarantee the
person exposed to HIV that he/she will not develop AIDS. As a
rule, it can take 5 to 15 years (after exposure) before people
infected with HIV develop AIDS. An infected person may not even
know he/she has HIV infection. This is the reason why everyone
must be extra-cautious, because AIDS is indeed a death sentence,
one that is preceded by a horrible stage of existence,
humiliation, pain and suffering, not only for the patient but
for the entire family.