Keep Calm & Condom On
Researchers have traced back the origins of HIV back to chimpanzees and the Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV). They found a strain of chimpanzee SIV called SIVcpz, which was almost identical to HIV. The Chimps prey on the other smaller species of monkeys (red-capped mangabeys and greater spot-nosed monkeys) that infect the chimps with the other two strains of SIV. Scientists deduced that the two strains most likely combined to form SIVcpz, which can be spread from chimps to humans.
The virus may have been contracted by humans when hunters ate infected chimps, or the infected blood of the chimps entered the hunters’ open wounds or cuts. Scientists believe that the first-ever transmission of SIV to HIV in humans was in 1920 in Kinshasa, Congo. From there, it may have spread via migrants and sex workers. In 1960’s, it then spread from Africa to Haiti and the Caribbean, then moved to New York and San Francisco later on. The virus has plagued different countries in the world since its first transmission.
Efforts to double HIV awareness doubled during the 1990’s. The Red Ribbon became the international symbol for awareness. Celebrities like Magic Johnson and Freddie Mercury announced to the world that they are HIV-positive, which helped raise more awareness of the disease.
In 1994, the Food and Drug Authority (FDA) approved the first oral HIV test. It was soon followed with an HIV home testing kit and urine test. After the invention and approval of the test kits, a decline in AIDS-related deaths in developed countries was observed. However, in Africa, it was still the fourth most prominent cause of death in 1991.
Women infected with HIV may experience changes in their periods. There may be lighter or heavier bleeding, missed periods, or bad PMS. It may be happening because of the virus’s effects on your immune system, which in turn affects your hormones. They may also feel pain in their lower belly due to infections in the uterus, fallopian tubes, and ovaries, collectively called pelvic inflammatory disease.
Ulcer on the penis is a unique HIV symptom experienced only by men. After being exposed to HIV, sores, or ulcers may develop in different parts of the body. These are often painful and may sometimes appear on a man’s penis, anus, esophagus, and mouth. HIV may also result in hypogonadism, which causes testosterone levels to drop and lead to erectile dysfunction.
This stage occurs 2 to 4 weeks after infection. The infected person may develop flu-like signs, but this is not always the case. The person usually describes it as “the worst flu ever.” It may include the following symptoms:
These are called Acute Retroviral Syndrome or Primary HIV infection. It’s the body’s response to the HIV infection. Anyone who thinks that they may have been infected is encouraged to seek medical care immediately. If you receive treatment at this early stage, it can have significant benefits on your overall health.
It is during this stage when the virus replicates large amounts of itself in your body. It uses CD4 cells to reproduce copies of itself then destroys them. Eventually, the number of your CD4 cells drop. Your body’s immune system response then is to bring the level of the virus to a viral set point, which is a stabilized level of infection in your body. Your CD4 cells start to increase again but may not be the same as your pre-infection level.
HIV level in your bloodstream is very high during this stage, so it’s also when you are at a very high risk of transmitting the virus via sex or sharing of needles.
The Clinical Latency Stage is a period wherein the virus is in the person’s body but doesn’t produce symptoms, or if there are, it’s only mild ones. The virus still reproduces but does so at very low levels. People in this stage are still able to transmit the virus to others. For infected people who are not taking treatment, the latency stage may last an average of 10 years, but for some, the infection may progress faster.
It is the last stage and occurs when your immune system is already severely damaged. You’re more prone to opportunistic infections during this stage, and the level of your CD4 cells have already dropped below 200 cells per cubic millimeter of blood.
Opportunistic infections are infections that used to cause only minimal or almost no problems at all before the development of AIDS but become serious health risks to a person who has weakened immune system.
For people who aren’t getting treatment, they can survive up to 3 years. According to Medical News Today, symptoms during this stage may include the following:
1. Candidiasis of the esophagus, lungs, bronchi, and trachea is a fungal infection that usually occurs in the nails and skin. For people with AIDS, it may cause severe problems in the esophagus and also in the lower respiratory tract.
2. Invasive cervical cancer is a type of cancer that starts from the cervix and then spreads to other regions of the body. Having a regular check-up with a cancer care team can help avoid it or limit the spread.
3. Coccidioidomycosis is commonly known to as valley fever. It is caused by inhaling the fungus Coccidioides immitis.
4. Cryptococcosis is caused by a fungus called Cryptococcus neoformans that infects any part of the body. It often enters the lungs and causes pneumonia or swelling of the brain.
5. he protozoan parasite Cryptosporidium causes cryptosporidiosis. It can lead to severe abdominal cramps and watery diarrhea.
6. Cytomegalovirus disease (CMV) can cause a wide range of diseases in the body. This includes gastroenteritis, pneumonia, a brain infection, and encephalitis. People with AIDS have concerns about CMV retinitis. It infects the retina at the back of the eye, causing permanent blindness. CMV retinitis is considered to be a medical emergency.
7. HIV-related encephalopathy is an acute or chronic HIV infection. It can trigger a brain disorder. It is considered to be linked to post-infection inflammation in the brain. The exact cause of it is still unknown to medical experts.
8. Herpes simplex (HSV) can infect the lungs or esophagus of people with late-stage HIV. The virus which causes this disease is usually sexually transmitted or passed on in childbirth. It is extremely common and rarely causes health problems in people with healthy immune systems. It may reactivate in people with HIV. It causes ulcers on the genitals and anus and cold sores around the mouth, and that do not go away. The sores are an indicator of AIDS.
9. The fungus Histoplasma capsulatum causes Histoplasmosis in people with advanced HIV, it causes extremely severe, pneumonia-like symptoms. It can progress into disseminated histoplasmosis and can have effects on organs found outside of the respiratory system.
10. The parasite Isospora belli causes chronic intestinal isosporiasis. It can infect the body through consuming contaminated food and water. Through this contamination, it causes diarrhea, abdominal pain, weight loss, fever, vomiting, headaches.
11. Kaposi’s sarcoma (KS) is caused by the Kaposi’s sarcoma herpesvirus (KSHV), also known as human herpesvirus 8(HHV-8). It causes a kind of cancer that leads to the growth of abnormal blood vessels in the body. When KS reaches organs, the intestines, or lymph nodes, for example, it becomes very dangerous. It usually appears as solid purple or pink spots on the skin. They are either flat or raised.
12. Lymphoma is what people refer to as the cancer of the lymph nodes and lymphoid tissues. It has many different types. Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma have a strong association with HIV infection.
13. The bacteria Mycobacterium tuberculosis causes tuberculosis (TB). It’s a disease that can transfer if a person with an active form of the bacteria coughs, speaks or sneezes. It causes a severe lung infection, accompanied by fever, weight loss, and tiredness. It may also infect the lymph nodes, brain, bones, or kidneys.
14. Mycobacteria, including Mycobacterium avium and Mycobacterium kansasii, are bacteria that occur in the environment naturally. They only pose a few problems for people with robust immune systems. They may spread in different regions of the body and cause severe health issues for people with HIV and AIDS.
15. Pneumocystis jirovecii pneumonia (PJP) is caused by a fungus called Pneumocystis jirovecii. It may lead to dry cough, high fever, and breathlessness in people with severely weakened immune systems, including those with HIV.
16. Recurrent pneumonia caused by a bacteria called Streptococcus pneumoniae is one of its most dangerous causes in people with a compromised immune system. Vaccines are already available for this type of bacteria. Every person who has HIV has to be vaccinated for Streptococcus pneumoniae.
17. Progressive multifocal encephalopathy (PML) is caused by the John Cunningham (JC) virus. It occurs in a lot of people but is usually dormant in the kidneys. The virus attacks the brain, causing a dangerous condition called progressive multifocal leukoencephalopathy (PML) in people with weakened immune systems, possibly because of HIV or medications, such as those for multiple sclerosis (MS). PML may cause paralysis and cognitive difficulties. It can be life-threatening.
18. Recurrent Salmonella septicemia is a kind of bacteria that enters the body by consuming contaminated food and water. It circulates the entire body, and attacks the immune system, leading to diarrhea, nausea, and vomiting.
19. A parasite called Toxoplasma gondii causes toxoplasmosis (toxo). It lives inside warm-blooded animals, cats, and rodents, for example, and exits their body in their feces. By breathing in contaminated dust or consuming contaminated food, humans can get the disease. It is also possible to contract the disease by commercial meats. The parasite causes severe infection in different areas of the body, such as the liver, brain, lungs, retina, heart, pancreas, testes, and colon. Always remember to wear protective gloves when changing cat litter. Don’t forget to properly wash your hands after cleaning the litter box.
20. “Wasting syndrome” happens when a person loses 10% of their muscle mass and fats through weakness, diarrhea, or fever.
In the Philippines, several healthcare facilities offer HIV screening tests. Here is a list of some of the testing centers found in different areas of the country, accompanied by their contact number, operating days, address, fees, and results.
There are also institutions such as LoveYourself that exist primarily to guide you and prepare you with your HIV screening tests. They also provide counseling and HIV/AIDS education to spread awareness and stop the occurrence of an epidemic among youth and the affected part of the population.
They are open from Mondays to Sundays. They offer free-of-charge and confidential HIV tests in all of their testing locations. Here’s a list of LoveYourself HIV testing centers taken from their website.
Their office is open every day except Sundays and Mondays. They offer HIV tests free-of-charge. They have a friendly, warm, and non-discriminatory staff. They’re located at 858 Blumentritt Road corner Remedios Street, Sampaloc, Manila, near the intersection of Espana and Blumentritt, near Welcome Rotonda.
Their office is open every day except Mondays and Tuesdays. HIV test is free-of-charge. Friendly, warm, and non-discriminatory staff. They’re located at Unit 5, 3/F, Anglo Building, #715-A Shaw Boulevard, Mandaluyong City. (3-minute walk from Shaw MRT Station, just behind Star Mall EDSA). You can find them on the 3rd floor of a yellow building with Anglo Hardware on the ground floor.
Their office is open every day except Mondays and Tuesdays. Friendly, warm, and non-discriminatory staff. They offer HIV test for free. You can find their office at 2028 Taft Avenue Extension, Pasay City. The center is conveniently situated close to LRT-1 Gil Puyat or Buendia station on the northbound lane of Taft Avenue. On the ground floor of the building is a building.
Formerly known as the Victoria Health and Wellness Center, Victoria by LoveYourself (VLY), is the first community center that offers services specializing in the needs of transgender (TG) persons. Other than the usual HIV screening and counseling services, the community center also offers hormone management, and pre-GAS (gender-affirming surgery) assessment and counseling. If you’re interested, you can go and inquire more about these services by going through the contact details below.
When LoveYourself Uni and LoveYourself Anglo are closed, you can go to the community center. They provide HIV screening and counseling services to everyone from Saturdays to Wednesdays (12nn to 7 PM).
They’re open five days a week for hormone replacement therapy consultations. Please take note that they are per appointment only from Saturday to Wednesday. You can find VLY at 2/F Torres Bldg., 2442 Park Avenue, Pasay City, Metro Manila, Philippines 1302. The center is along Libertad, Pasay.
Free Doctor’s Consultation* for Hormone
Replacement Therapy (HRT) for TGs
Saturday to Wednesday
BY APPOINTMENT ONLY (5–7 PM time slots)
*To schedule your free HRT consult, you are
required to fill out a Client Signup Form
HIV Screening and Counselling Services for all
Saturday to Wednesday
12 NN TO 7 PM
Thursday and Friday
Lily is a joint effort by LoveYourself and another Community-based organization, DIOSSA. The center offers their HIV tests free-of-charge. More than this, they pride themselves on having a friendly, warm, and non-discriminatory staff. They also provide HIV screening and counseling services to everyone six days a week from Tuesday to Sunday (12nn to 9 pm). You can access Lily by LoveYourself x DIOSSA at 5th Floor, Pineda Building, #98 Manalac Ave., Sitio De Asis, San Martin de Porres, Paranaque City.
There is no cure available for HIV/AIDS yet. There are, however, treatments that you can take to hinder the progression of the virus and enable people infected with the virus to live a relatively long and healthy life.
Taking antiretroviral treatment early on significantly reduces HIV in the body to an undetectable viral load, which in turn helps improve the HIV infected person’s life, reduce transmission risk, and increase life expectancy.Antiretroviral drugs have a number of subgroups, such as:
Protease Inhibitors — these medications bind to protease enzymes, which are enzymes needed by HIV to replicate, and prevents the virus from creating copies of itself
Integrase Inhibitors — these types of drugs block the integrase enzyme, which HIV needs to infect cells. Usually the initial line of treatment because of its effectiveness and slim side effects for a lot of people
Nucleoside/nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NRTIs) — interferes with HIV whenever the virus tries to replicate
Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors (NNRTIs) — has the same effects as NRTIs
Entry inhibitors — these drugs stop HIV from entering the T-cells
You need a combined intake of these drugs to suppress HIV. Medical experts mix the right match of drugs per individual.
There’s also a drug that a person can take if he thinks he has been exposed to HIV within the past three days. Post-exposure prophylaxis, which is an anti-HIV medication, may help stop the infection. The treatment lasts a total of 28 days. The patient has to be monitored for HIV even after the end of the procedure.
There are lifestyle changes you have to adhere to because of the increase in risks of infections and diseases.
Taking your HIV medication is a must. Organize your lifestyle in a way that adheres to your treatment. If side effects are becoming too severe, talk to your healthcare provider. Regularly check up with your healthcare provider to ensure that the treatment is working fine. They can change the combination of your drugs to something you are more comfortable with.
HIV medication can be expensive. But in the Philippines, the Department of Health offers free HIV treatment. They encourage the HIV infected population to “access and take advantage of this life-saving antiretroviral drugs in all of the DOH-designated HIV treatment facilities.”
Take the initiative in maintaining good health by exercising, eating a balanced diet, and avoiding harmful drugs and smoking. The stigma around HIV is still present, though not as severe as before thanks to the continuous awareness efforts by different organizations. You may feel excluded and persecuted. You must have a strong support system you can rely on.
Organizations such as LoveYourself created HIV care and support groups that are committed to helping you by sharing advice, friendship, and guidance. Joining these groups is vital to maintaining your mental health.
Be part of something meaningful by joining LoveYourself in their mission to spread HIV awareness.
Although most of their activities are in Manila, LoveYourself accepts volunteers from all over the country. Anyone of legal age, whatever gender, sexuality, race, creed, education, or work background you have, you’re welcome to join. You can undergo training and orientation to be a better member of the LoveYourself community and to serve the HIV advocacy better. Simply visit this site to find out how you can join. You’ll be required to fill up a sign up form and will be contacted soon.
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