The stigma associated with HIV/AIDS is still prevalent among many communities in the world. With progress made in the health care field, a positive HIV status is no longer an immediate death sentence. While there is neither cure nor vaccine to prevent an HIV infection, there are treatments that allow for a patient to live longer and have a comfortable life.
The Minnesota Health Department has recognized the need to offer culturally based media education on HIV/AIDS to fulfill the needs of Minnesota’s ever growing foreign born populations. To this end, the African Assistance Program and the Sub-Saharan African Youth and Family Services were awarded state funds to reach African in Minnesota.
The following is the first of a series of articles aimed at educating the general population on HIV/AIDS.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks ones immune system progressively developing into AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) making the body unable to fight infections. HIV in itself is not fatal since a person can live for years before the immune system is completely weakened.
Progression of HIV
HIV virus enters the body from infected person through these body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk and other body fluids containing mucus.
There are three primary ways that the virus can be transmitted from one person to another:
• Having anal, vaginal or oral sex with someone infected with HIV
• Sharing needles and syringes with someone infected with HIV
• From infected mother to child, either when the fetus is in the womb or through breastfeeding.
Because HIV cannot live outside the body for long, it cannot be transmitted via day to day activities such as shaking hands and sharing utensils.
Once HIV is in the body, it begins to progressively attack the immune system.
It is easy to miss the symptoms in the first stage since the symptoms are flu-like, and only last a few weeks. It is at this stage that the body’s immune system begins to produce HIV anti-bodies to fight off the virus.
The second stage lasts an average of ten years and is symptom-free for the most parts. Some patients suffer from swollen glands since HIV is not dormant, but mostly attack lymph nodes.
As the lymph nodes are damaged by the viral attack, the immune system becomes severely damaged. In this third stage, mutation of HIV makes it attack the immune system even more.
The final stage of HIV is what is known as AIDS, an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. The immune system of a person with AIDS is very weak making it difficult for the body to fight infections that a healthy human body should be able to fight. It is these infections that make someone have AIDS.
According to the Center for Disease and Control HIV/AID is the leading cause of death of people between the ages of 25 and 44.
Free Testing Sites
There are several organizations in the Minneapolis/St. Paul Twin cities area that offer free testing, counseling and referral services such as Red door clinic in Minneapolis (525 Portland Avenue. Minneapolis MN, 55415) and Room 111 in St. Paul (555 Cedar Avenue St. Paul MN. 55101) while many of these organizations cater to the larger Minnesotan community, a few of them specifically cater to African immigrants living in Minnesota: SAYFSM an African organization located in St. Paul (1885 University Ave. W MN. 55104) and extend its testing services to people in Minnesota.
The above research was gathered from the Center for Disease and Control and the Minnesota Department of Health.
SAYFSM: 1885 University Ave, Suite 297, St. Paul. 651 644 3983