Thursday, February 11, 2010

HIV/AIDS The Facts...

After my recent trip to Ethiopia visiting HIV positive orphans I have come home to lots of questions and frustration as the amount of misinformation and people who think they know the facts but their facts haven't been updated since HIV/AIDS was first discovered and doctors really weren't sure about the exact details of the virus. Today there is SO much information out there for people to educate themselves that I decided that a post is much needed on the REAL facts about HIV/AIDS. Even my own mother said, "oh she is so beautiful but she will never be able to get married or have babies." We have had the "talk" before and I thought I'd explained about transmission statistics, etc. well but I guess not good enough to knock the old teachings out and put the new stuff in, so this is my attempt to really bring home the fact that HIV is absolutely manageable and treatable. NOT cureable but darn close.

Isn't HIV contagious? HIV is a very fragile virus, and there are very specific ways that it is transmitted. HIV is only transmitted when the virus enters the bloodstream. This only occurs through sexual contact; through the use of contaminated needles or other sharp instruments, or receiving a transfusion of HIV-infected blood products; and from a mother who is HIV-infected to her child during pregnancy, childbirth, labour and delivery, and breastfeeding. HIV transmission does not occur with normal household contact. It is not transmitted through tears, saliva, mucous or other bodily fluids. It is considered a "communicable" disease - meaning you can't simply "catch" it. In addition, when an infected person is on treatment, the levels of HIV in the blood are brought so low that they are considered undetectable - meaning the possibility of transmission - even through contact with blood, semen, or vaginal fluid - is that much more remote.

Aren't these children going to die after their families bring them home? Many people don't realize that the prognosis for children on treatment for their HIV is excellent. They are expected to live long, normal lives. In fact, in the west, HIV is now considered a chronic illness rather than the terminal disease it used to be. Sadly, this isn't the case for those HIV infected children living in resource-poor settings, where 50% of infected and untreated children are not expected to live past the age of two.

Is it true that you can have HIV and not develop AIDS? Absolutely! There are over 20 medications approved by the FDA for the treatment of HIV, and more are in development. These medications bring the levels of the virus so low in the body that the virus can be considered undetectable in the bloodstream. Patients receiving treatment for HIV can expect to live long, healthy lives without developing AIDS.

What about all of the children who don't get adopted? We recognize that adoption is only a band-aid answer. It is one small piece in a big puzzle - we seek to partner with organizations providing holistic, sustainable care for HIV+ orphans in-country.

What if I catch HIV from my child? Many people don’t know that HIV is a very fragile virus. As soon as it leaves the body, it begins to die. There are no documented cases of HIV transmission through casual household or school contact. HIV+ children can (and do!) share cups, baths, pools, dishes, bathrooms, etc.! In addition, when children are on treatment for their HIV, the amount of the virus in their bloodstream can be brought so low that it is considered “undetectable” – meaning the amount of the virus in the blood, even through contact with blood, has been brought so low that the possibility of transmission has become even more remote.

What if no insurance company will cover my child? Here’s the great news! It is a legal requirement that all adopted children be added to group insurance plans without pre-existing condition clauses in all 50 states! And many states also require that private insurance plans do the same! In addition, all 50 states have funding programs that will assist with the costs of HIV treatment within specified income guidelines. For specific information on your state's programs and insurance requirements, please request our State Fact Sheet for your state.

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