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17.07.2009 Health

Living with HIV & human rightDo you know your status?

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Living with HIV & human rightDo you know your status?
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So small it requires an electron microscope to be seen, so simple in its structure that it offers few vulnerabilities for its control, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has adversely affected the lives of individuals and families the world over, yet there is cause for hope. After many frustrating years, HIV/AIDS researchers finally have reason to believe that the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) can be controlled.

Abundant evidence also indicates that the attitudes and health habits of people who are HIV positive can powerfully influence the progression of their infection. Yet many HIV positive individuals are unaware of their HIV status and are still involved in harmful health practices.

You may look and act just like people without HIV infection, you may not appear sick but feel healthy and therefore do not think you are at risk. But the truth is that anyone of any age, gender, race, sexual orientation, or social or economic class can become infected and the only way to know is to go for testing.

It is therefore very important that individuals go for voluntary counseling and testing to know their status NOW! and seek treatment. Being unaware of your status also makes it more likely to unknowingly transmit the virus to others.

You should go for testing if:
• You have more than one sexual partner / Change sexual partners frequently • You have ever had vagi nal, anal, or oral sex without protection • You have ever shared needles or syringes to inject drugs (including steroids or hormones) • Your partner is HIV-posi tive • You are pregnant or are considering becoming pregnant • You have ever been diag nosed with a sexually transmit ted disease • You adhere to the notion that you can not transmit HIV if you practice withdrawal/coitus interruptus (removal of penis from vagina prior to ejaculation).

This is not true, because HIV can be in pre-cums (liquid coming out of the penis prior to ejaculation) A negative HIV test is a perfect time to stop any behavior that could put you at further risk of infection and spare yourself unnecessary worrying. If you test positive adopt strategies to enable you stay healthier longer and enjoy the best possible quality of life.

Get out of denial to seek treatment. Acknowledge that you have a problem, at least to yourself if not immediately to others. Then you can begin to live in the most healthful ways.

It is perfectly natural for anyone with a life threatening condition to experience powerful negative feelings but it is advisable to stay and think positive because being negative along with denial, eliminate the motivation to live in healthful, life-prolonging ways. Know your enemy. If you are HIV positive, learn as much as possible about HIV and it treatment options.

Diet is also important to optimum immune functioning. A well balance diet with plenty of fresh fruits and vegetables delays the appearance of severe illness.

Insist on quality health care. If you find that your physician or other health care provider is loosing interest in your care, insist on obtaining better service or, if necessary, find a more dedicated provider.

Maintain emotional support. Knowing that they are HIV positive, some people isolate themselves from the people they need most, those who love them and could provide emotional and practical support. They do this because of fear of discrimination and stigmatization. Care for us and accept us.

We are all human beings. We are normal. We have hands. We have feet. We can walk, we can talk. We have needs just like everyone else. Don't be afraid of us. We are all the same! - The late Nkosi Johnson. A 12 years old AIDS activist

People living with HIV are frequently subject to discrimination and human rights abuses. Many have been thrown out of jobs and homes, rejected by family and friends, become the subject of gossip and some have even been killed.

Some countries still have laws that restrict the entry, stay and residence of people living with HIV based on their positive HIV status only, discriminating against them in their freedom of movement and right to work.

At the same time, laws and regulations protecting people with HIV from discrimination and women from gender inequality and sexual violence are not fully implemented or enforced.

Human Rights are fundamental to any response to HIV/AIDS. This has been recognized since the first global AIDS strategy was developed in 1987. All human beings are born free and equal in dignity and rights.

They are endowed with reason and conscience and should act towards one another in a spirit of brotherhood.

People living with HIV are entitled to the same human rights as everyone else, including the right to access appropriate services, gender equality, self-determination and participation in decisions affecting their quality of life, and freedom from discrimination.

The immune mechanism is quite sensitive to a person's mental state, and the survival of an HIV patient is closely associated with the strength of her or his immune system, any form of abuse therefore can adversely influence their physical health.

Discrimination related to actual or presumed HIV-positive status also increases the impact of the epidemic on people living with, and affected by, HIV. For instance, it may lead individuals and families into increased poverty and marginalization.

Together, stigma and discrimination constitute one of the greatest barriers to dealing effectively with the epidemic. They discourage governments from acknowledging or taking timely action against AIDS and also deter individuals from finding out about their HIV status. And they inhibit those who know they are infected from sharing their diagnosis and taking action to protect others and from seeking treatment and care for themselves.

We are all at risk, therefore know your status and in your own small way make it your duty to ensure that the fundamental right to essential health care and life free from fear of stigma and discrimination of people living with HIV is strengthened.

World AIDS Day 2009, falls on December 1st and the theme 'Universal Access and Human Rights' has been chosen to address the critical need to protect human rights and attain access for all to HIV prevention, treatment, care and support.

It also acts as a call to countries to remove laws that discriminate against people living with HIV, women and marginalized groups.

As the world marks the day let us learn to live positively with HIV/AIDS and contribute to the fight against the epidemic.

HIV is not a death sentence, but silence about HIV and AIDS can be one. Break the silence surrounding HIV stigma in our community. Talk about your experiences, fears and concerns about getting HIV or transmitting HIV with friends, a counselor, or a sex partner. Know your status today!! Go for voluntary testing, talk to your doctor or other health care providers and seek treatment to help live healthily with HIV, and more importantly do not re-infect your self if you are already positive.

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