Wednesday, May 12, 2010

Facts about HIV/AIDS & the role of the media

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus that causes AIDS. A member of a group of viruses called retroviruses, HIV infects human cells and uses the energy and nutrients provided by those cells to grow and reproduce.
Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a disease in which the body’s immune system breaks down and is unable to fight off certain infections, known as ‘opportunistic infections,’ and other illnesses that take advantage of a weakened immune system.
When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body, lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells.
The white blood cells are the immune cells that normally protect us from diseases. The stamp of HIV infection is the progressive loss of a specific type of immune cell called ‘T-helper or CD4’ cells.
As the virus grows, it damages kills these and other cells, weaken the immune system and leaves the individual vulnerable to opportunistic infections and other illnesses, ranging from pneumonia to cancer.
Some common myths and misunderstandings about HIV/AIDS
There are many myths about HIV/AIDS. Most of these myths are based on incorrect information or lack of sufficient knowledge about the disease on the parts of most of our nurses, doctors, health workers, relatives and even the media while some are related to the stigma that is often associated with HIV/AIDS and ignorance.
It has been widely believed among other things that a person with HIV or AIDS looks sickly; that only promiscuous person gets infected, that having HIV is the same as having AIDS, that HIV is a death sentence that an HIV positive person can not bear child….
In dealing with myths, misunderstanding and ignorance about HIV/AIDS, what can the media do?
The media has a pivotal role to play in all aspects of the HIV/AIDS response.
With its wide reaching infrastructure, the media’s ability to change the course of HIV/AIDS is practically unparalleled.
Besides the dissemination of information, the media has the potential to influence attitudes, behavior and even policy making in many ways through greater coverage of the epidemic.
The media also has vital role to play in disabusing the mind set of the public and even those living with the virus about its positives and negatives of the epidemic.

Dealing with myths….

In dealing with myths, misunderstanding and ignorance about HIV/AIDS, we must firstly begin to change mind sets and attitudes of our professionals (nurses, doctors, health workers, journalists, lawyers etc) about the epidemic that information about the virus are not misconstrued amongst the public.

The fact remains that most professionals, including the media have not had sufficient knowledge about the HIV/AIDS epidemic thereby causing panic in the public about the virus.

The truth remains among other things that people with HIV infection often don’t look or feel sick and they may not even know that they are infected.

In some cases, even those with a very low T-cell or CD4 cell count may look healthy.
When the epidemic began in the early 1980s, the first cases of HIV an AIDS were found among men who had sex with men (MSM) in major cities. Today, however, the picture of the epidemic is changing. Many new cases of HIV are occurring among heterosexual women of color, ethnic minorities and people living in rural areas.

While the number of new cases is still high among MSM, it is important to note that HIV is transmitted primarily through risky sexual and drug-taking behaviors and anyone engaging such behavior risks HIV infection, regardless of the gender their partners.

Being HIV positive and having an AIDS diagnosis are not in any way the same.
AIDS occurs only after a long period of HIV infection, during which the body’s immune system has been badly damaged and it is diagnosed when certain opportunistic infections are present.

Another aspect in the HIV/AIDS response that requires massive attention and the necessary awareness is the issue of stigma and discrimination.

In our subsequent edition, we’ll explore how individuals and organizations around the world can help reduce stigma and discrimination and what the National HIV and AIDS Workplace Policy says.

‘Death trap’!

The lives of thousands of people (women, children, students, street peddlers, motorcyclists and other residents) roaming the overcrowded streets of Monrovia, especially the Johnson Street area are being threatened by an opened sewage closed to the sidewalk of the street.
The ‘death trap’ situated on Johnson and Carey Streets that is usually seen crowded during school hours with students, mainly from the J. W. Pearson Elementary School and other students.
The sidewalk meant for pathway for pedestrians is evidently seen occupied by shoe-shine boys, money exchangers, and other peddlers at the detriment of those roaming the street daily.
Despite the danger that the opened sewage system is posing to the lives of people roaming street, residents of the community are also taking advantage of the situation to dispose of their wastes and other garbage.
The pit according to one of the street peddlers who only referred to himself as Jerry was left open by the Chinese Company CICO upon the completion of the road late April.
Jerry who was, himself seen with assorted goods in a wheelbarrow standing just next to the pit was endangering the lives of many pedestrians mainly at night.

Sea erosion threatens Buchanan city

Residents of the Port City of Buchanan in Grand Bassa County are living in total fear for the raging sea erosion that is said to be gradually encroaching on the city.
“We are living here in Buchanan, especially those of us residing in this Fanti Town only by the Grace of God; at night when we are going to bed, we only give our lives to God, because we don’t know when the sea will clear us from here. All the other houses that were in front of us have already been cleared by the sea, and we don’t have money to relocate,” 70 year-old Anthony Nimley told our reporter.
Mr. Nimley who is said to have resided in the Fanti Town community for over 30 years told our reporter that the community has for the past years been lacking safe drinking water and toilet facilities.
He said as a result of the lack of safe drinking water and toilet facilities, the residents are being constrained to drink from wells water and use the beaches for latrine.
“We are calling on the government and other none-governmental organizations in the country to come to our aid, our children are dying every day of different kinds of sicknesses, especially cholera and diarrhea and the waste of all is the sea that is coming to clear us from here, we do not have money to fine place to another place. We can’t sleep sound in the night because we are afraid that the sea doesn’t take us away|,” Mamie Morton, mother of three children said.
Fanti Town is considered by residents as one of the many slum communities in Buchanan.
Our reporter who visited the community observed that entire community was covered with an unpleasant odor perhaps from the beach.
It was also observed that group of people, including men; women and children were seen along the beach apparently defecating while others were confidently relaxing and carrying on normal activities on the beach that is just next to the community.
According to our reporter, most of the houses on the right side of Preston Street lift form the ever busy Tubman Street is gradually being encroached on, as the sea is seen just a stone throw from the road.
In 2009, local authorities in Grand Bassa County, led by Superintendent Julia D. Cassell launched $3 Million United States dollars fund drive aimed at generating funds that will help remedy the sea erosion that is gradually encroaching on the City.