Saturday, December 01, 2007

World Aids Day 2007....世界愛滋病日2007......世界エイズデー2007...

Today marks World Aids Day. In the past, I didn't really pay much attention to this date but this year its different. Lets start with some basic facts about Aids worldwide:

Every minute, almost 80 people are infected with HIV around the world.

Every day, an estimated 1,900 children become infected with HIV/AIDS, equating to more than one child every minute.

Globally 40 million people are currently living with HIV and of these
4.3 million became newly infected in 2006.

18 million are women ie 48% of all adults living with HIV worldwide, and 59% for sub-Saharan Africa.

25 million people have died of AIDS since 1981, including an estimated 2.9 million deaths in 2006
Some facts on Aids in Australia:

Following a long-term decline, the annual number of new HIV diagnoses in Australia has over the past seven years gradually increased.
By 31 December 2006, there were 26 267 diagnoses of HIV infection in Australia. There were 10, 125 diagnoses of AIDS and 6 723 deaths following AIDS had occurred. Differences between the States and Territories exist in the rates of newly diagnosed HIV infection.

Transmission of HIV continues to be mainly through sexual contact between men.

Among cases of newly acquired HIV infection, male homosexual contact was reported in 88%, injecting drug use among women and heterosexual men in 1%, and through heterosexual contact only in 8% of cases. In 3% of cases, exposure to HIV remained undetermined.

Unprotected anal intercourse remains the most important behavioural factor in HIV transmission.

Of homosexually active men surveyed in Australian communities, 40% - 50% reported in engaging in unprotected anal intercourse in the last year. In Sydney, there has been a significant decrease in reporting of unprotected anal intercourse between homosexually active men. In contrast, significant increases have been observed in Melbourne over the period 2002-2006.
2006 Comparative AIDS Incidence Data With Other OECD Countries

AIDS incidence per 100,000
United States
13.9 (in 2005)

HIV/AIDS in the Asia region : An estimated 4.9 million people were living with HIV in Asia in 2007 and some 440,000 people became newly infected with the virus. Approximately 300,000 people died from AIDS-related illnesses in 2007.The highest national infection levels continue to be found in South-East Asian countries where combinations of unprotected paid sex and sex between men, along with unsafe injecting drug use, are contributing to the HIV epidemic.

I hadn't realised that in australia, the largest group of hiv/aids new infections came from sexually active gay men, making up a whopping 88% of all new diagnosed infections. This makes it almost a 'gay disease' in Australia (as politically incorrect as that may sound).
In Asia, drug abuse through infected needles and heterosexual prostitution continue to dominate the hiv/aids infection rate in terms of numbers although infection through homosexual sex between men makes up an increased percentage of people being infected with Aids/Hiv.

And now the Q, why my interest in World Aids Day this yr when i had previously not been interested at all???
Well............little did i know but HIV/AIDS had arrived at my immediate family's doorsteps early this year......Now, what do i mean?? may be wondering. I am not allowed to speak in detail as its kinda taboo to talk about this, but someone in my immediate family, being a male relative on my mum's side whom was very close to my mum, died of Aids early this year. *GASP!!* I know, an Aids death in our the beginning, we all didn't know what was going on as he had returned from a Hong Kong trip with his long term girlfriend and started showing symptoms of fever, diarrhoea, etc which just wouldn't go away. He would recover but then lapse back after a day or two, and no medication seemed to help....we all thought, being typical Chinese, that he may have met 'dirty stuff' like spirits or a curse, as GPs couldn't figure out what was wrong and he was starting to waste away, losing over 10 kg in a week (my mother said that he was literally skin and bones by the end of the month). When my mother first told me about this, i immediately thought of the 'ghost/spirits/curse' chain of reasoning cos i thought impossible that someone could keep having fevers and lose so much weight in so little time with doctors being unable to tell what was wrong with him. Further, he had just returned from HK so i thought maybe he 'bumped' into some ghost there. Of cos, no one in the family, incl. my other aunts and uncles suspected that it was the signs of aids. (well, a medical practitioner uncle of mine later confided that he did). Finally, the family decided to bring him to hospital which he absolutely refused to go but the family all insisted he go. And so the truth was found when the medical blood results came out. AIDS, final stage.

He had had it for over 7 years now but thought utilising mediums and supernatural ways such as going to chinese sinsehs would help. And apparently it did...for 7 years. He took no anti-vitrol or hiv medicine which is widely available now and showed no visible symptoms of Aids at all. In all the time we came out to eat together, the times he was at our home, all the times i met him, I NEVER SAW NOR SUSPECTED AIDS.

Thinking bck, it seems surreal that i had met him so many times over the past 7 years as a relative and he was a HIV carrier... i guess we all have our own prejudices and ignorance and don't know how we'd react if we came to interact with a hiv positive carrier.....Well i knew this yr. You simply treat them as normal cos u don't know. Had i known, i really don't know how i would have acted differently.

My close male relative died within 2 months of his symptom manifesting and a hurried funeral was prepared. They had to burn his body immediately unlike other patients and gloves,etc were used. Also, after this incident, my relatives (and me thru my phone conversations with mum) also found out the procedures for dealing with Aids diagnosed patients in Malaysia.

Firstly, all patients diagnosed with Aids must be reported to the Ministry of Health and have their vital statistics recorded, including all Aids-related deaths in Malaysia. Further, in hospitals, those whom are aids patients will have a particular coloured *** stuck in front of their beds to indicate to medical staff that these are aids patients which require extra care. (for privacy reasons, i cannot disclose how aids patients are identified in malaysia lest malaysians who read this go check hospital beds next time they are visiting someone at the hospital) So my aunts went 'doing the rounds' whilst on a visit to the male relative and were taken abck at the number of aids patients at the hospital. Further, my cousin who is interning at a hospital in Malacca (he's becoming a doctor soon and whom I suspect is gay) also told us that there were many aids patients at the hospital in Malacca/melaka.

This death has shocked us all and made me reassess my viewpoints as well as relationships with people. It has also confronted me with some (very very slight!!) fears of dealing with hiv/aids people which i may have. Looking bck, if this male relative of mine could have had hiv for 7 yrs without my knowledge of it and me eating, interacting with him for the past 7 yrs, what about my other relatives/friends, what about my gay male friends? what about that cute guy, gay or straight, i admire??

We just don't believe nor suspect those whom we love, we like could have aids.....and would it matter? Would i react differently to them had i to find out?? I don't know, I really don't, despite all my pro-liberal anti-discrimination stance and belief....

So, please please please do go get an aids blood test regularly, esp if you are in a high risk group, i.e. prostitutes or gay men, and wear protection for your own sake cos you really dun want to be 'dying for a fcuk'. Cos if my family member can die of aids 7 years after his diagnosis within a couple of months and seeming fine all those years, those whom deliberately don't test or take medication (which may well have saved (or at least delayed) my relative's life) could end up with the same result. And believe my mother, she said the final weeks were simply horrifying, seeing him in pain, wasting away, being unable to ingest anything......

And so next time u read the statistics for aids deaths in malaysia, my close male relative was one of them.

*In memory of my ***** whom died of AIDS in Penang, Malaysia, 2007*

PS: Now all queries on his death by other relatives/friends are met with the same answer, after initial discrepancies in answers b/w different family members to outsiders: He died of pneumonia. (Which, by the way, is a very rare cause of death nowadays in the absence of aids infection. )

Events commemorating WAD in 2007 in Oz:

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