By Ezim Osai,
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Wednesday, September 4, 2013
Heal the world; make it a better place….for the entire human race
- Michael Jackson
This write up is basically about HIV/AIDS, Sex-education and STIs. HIV/AIDS is no doubt a ‘disease’ that almost all of us know about or have heard of. In one form of the other, a number of us have had what is referred to as ‘sex-education’ from our friends, colleagues, teachers, religious leaders or parents. Some of us however do not know so much about sex as a result of our seemingly ‘moral’ or ‘religious’ orientation.
Before I proceed, I would attempt to provide an acceptable definition sex-education. Wikipedia defines sex-education as “the instruction on issues relating to human sexuality, including human sexual anatomy, sexual reproduction, sexual activity, reproductive health, emotional relations, reproductive rights and responsibilities, abstinence and birth control”.
Sex-education is generally regarded as a delicate topic and some parents usually get awkward when talking about sex with their children and so sometimes they leave out a lot of information or intentionally misinform their wards. This leaves a question as to whether sex-education should be taught by parents at all and if not them, then who should take up this responsibility?
Another important question is “at what age should children be taught about sex?” Each person and each family differs in religion and background and so what works for one may not necessarily work for the other. In my opinion, sex-education should be taught by trained instructors to children just approaching puberty (between 10-13) and parents should also reiterate the information at home as children would most likely not be comfortable enough to approach their teachers if they have sexual-related problems.
Some may argue that sex education is not useful since the children are going to find out about sex anyway. I refer to such a notion as ‘mumu-mentality’; and to that I will add a quote I am positive a lot of us are familiar with “to be forewarned is to be forearmed”.
Talking about STIs, we have to know what they are. STI or STD is an acronym for Sexually Transmitted Infection or Sexually Transmitted Disease. These are diseases/infections that get passed interpersonally through sexual intercourse. This intercourse can be heterosexual or homosexual, vaginal, anal or oral but the outcome is the same so long as sexual fluids or blood is in contact. Examples include syphilis, gonorrhoea, herpes, and HIV among others. Most of these infections have cures although they are quite expensive and the medication may include surgery.
HIV/AIDS is a well-known disease in Nigeria, killing almost as many people as Malaria. HIV/AIDS was discovered in the 1980s among homosexuals in the United States. The spread of the virus has increased over time and has become a global pandemic not restricted to one country or one continent alone. According to the World Health Organisation, almost 70million people have been infected with the virus since the beginning of the epidemic and AIDS has claimed almost 35million lives thus far. Also according to WHO (World Health Organisation), 0.8% of adults aged 15-49 years are living with HIV although the burden of the epidemic varies considerably from country to country. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most severely affected region with 1 in 20 persons being HIV positive.
HIV is an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and can be contracted through blood contact with a patient suffering from the same virus. This could be during sexual intercourse, mother-to-child, transfusion of unscreened blood, usage of unsterilized sharp instruments like needles, razors, scissors or clippers, and direct blood-to-blood contact e.g. blood oaths. HIV is a virus and cannot survive outside the human body for more than five minutes (i.e. after five minutes an infected clipper/sharp instrument becomes safe for usage).
HIV cannot be contracted through saliva or hugging or shaking hands therefore if one kisses a HIV patient, he/she would not contract the virus provided he or the patient do not have any festering sores in their mouth. This is not to say that HIV cannot be contracted through oral sex though as it has been found that fellatio and cunnilingus can both transmit HIV.
A HIV patient can last up to 40 years living with the virus when eating healthily and taking anti-retroviral drugs. There is no cure that I know of as yet but there are some rare cases when HIV positive individuals regressed to being HIV negative. For health purposes, a person is advised to take a HIV test every 3 or 6 months because of what is referred to as 'window period’. HIV tests are free in all government-owned hospitals across the nation and do not take more than 30 minutes including counselling.
AIDS ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’ is what I’d refer to as the ‘baba’ of HIV. HIV attacks CD4 cells (a specialised type of white blood cells) and destroys the human immune system if left untreated. After a while, this gives way to AIDS where the immune system is so weak that other diseases can infect the patient at will and be present at the same time. This could be tuberculosis, malaria, yellow fever, typhoid and may even include other STIs. Once the stage of AIDS is reached, a patient can live up to 20 years if taken care of very well but chances of living a worry-free life are next to none. Like I said earlier, there is still no cure for AIDS.
There is no way to be 100% protected from HIV/AIDS but there are ways to reduce the risk of contracting it unintentionally.
- The usage of sterilized personal sharp instruments and insistence of soaking blades in sterilizing fluids before using them or tempering blades with fire.
- Insistence on blood screening before transfusion. If a relative of yours for instance is involved in an accident, insist on screening the blood being transfused to the person to prevent the incidence of unwanted HIV. HIV test alone takes less than 5 minutes.
- Abstinence from sex with a partner whose status we are unsure of.
- Abstinence from casual sex in general (flings or quickies or one-night-stands)
- Usage of condoms during sexual intercourse.
- Usage of wet nurse after delivery.
The scourge of HIV has reduced in modern times thanks to the efforts of the government, NGOs and concerned citizens. The awareness of the public on how to live a sexually healthy life is also increasing rapidly and the introduction of Sexual Health as a compulsory course in some Nigerian universities an peer/pet education in some Nigerian secondary schools are also to be thanked for this decline. Parents should also do more to encourage their wards to live sexually responsible lives and not shy away from getting involved in the process of sex education. To be forewarned is to be forearmed, it is left to us to do all we can to make the world, and indeed Nigeria, a safer place to live.