In conversation with ENT Specialist and Dermatologist, MD, DO, Dr. H.M Ravi.
Today, the 1st of December is celebrated as World Aids Awareness Day by the World Health Organization. HIV continues to be a global public health issue, having claimed more than 32 million lives so far.
However, thanks to the increase in access to effective HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment, and care, it has become a manageable chronic health condition, giving people living with HIV the possibility to lead long, fulfilling and healthy lives. However, while awareness and the stigma associated with HIV has improved considerably over the years, there are still a lot of misconceptions and myths associated with it.
We strongly believe in the importance of awareness when it comes to healthcare. After all, it’s only after we’re well informed and aware can we take care of both ourselves and our loved ones. So, on the occasion of World AIDS Day, we sat down with Dr. H.M Ravi, a practicing ENT Specialist and Dermatologist with 30 years of experience in his domain; to understand and learn more about it - right from understanding the onset of HIV/AIDS to taking care of someone we know who has HIV/AIDS.
Digit: Hi Dr. Ravi, thank you for taking the time out for this interview. We really appreciate it 😊. As you probably would have heard too, according to the WHO report, there were around 37.9 million people in the world living with HIV at the end of last year! That’s a shockingly large number and yet, it seems like most people aren’t even aware of the basic symptoms of HIV infection, whereas SO MANY people are also misinformed about it overall. To start with, could you help us understand what the symptoms of HIV infection are, and when exactly should someone be alarmed?
Dr. H.M Ravi: The symptoms of HIV infection vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months after being infected, many are unaware of their status until the later stages. The most common symptoms a person infected with HIV experiences include recurring fever, chills, rashes, night sweats, muscle aches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers. Anybody who experiences this, and/or loose motions as well should consult a doctor immediately.
Digit: And what kind of doctor or specialist would they be required to consult, for the same?
Dr. H.M Ravi: Usually, for HIV you can consult a General Physician, Dermatologist, Venereologist, Gynecologist, or/and Anti-Retroviral Centers at Government Hospitals.
Digit: And, in order to diagnose whether someone is HIV positive or not, what tests are required?
Dr. H.M Ravi: There are mainly two tests taken to diagnose whether you’re HIV positive or not; which are ELISA (Enzyme-linked Immune Sorbent Assay) and a Western Blot Test.
Digit: So, as far as it’s known, there is no real cure for someone with HIV. However, things have become better over the years for those infected. Can you tell us a little more about the kind of treatments that help facilitate this?
Dr. H.M Ravi: That’s true, there is no direct cure but, with proper anti-retroviral therapy and healthy lifestyle habits, patients can lead an almost normal life for more than 10 to 20 years. Generally, the drugs used to manage it are Antiretroviral drugs like Zidovudine, Stavidin, Lamivudine, Emtricitabine, and Abacavir.
Digit: So, one of the things we’ve noticed at large is that people are still generally quite uninformed about how HIV is transmitted. Sometimes, we hear people say things like, “oh you shouldn’t use the same utensils as someone with HIV”, which is kind of ridiculous and, also insensitive. What are your views on this? What are some of the myths you see that are associated with how HIV is transmitted?
Dr. H.M Ravi: That’s right, one of the major myths associated with HIV is on how it is spread. In fact, a lot of healthcare campaigns in the past too have been done mainly to bust myths on how it is transmitted. So, to break it down - HIV is NOT transmitted by the following, these are all basically myths people often talk about:
· By mere touching or gentle kissing
· By sweat, tears, urine or feces of HIV patients
· By mutual masturbation
· By used condoms
· By air, coughs, sneezes or spit
· By food, drink, and cooking utensils
· By toilet seats, tablets, door handles, cutlery and sharing towels
· By water, insects, animals, new or sterilized needles, music instruments
Digit: Healthcare costs have only been increasing as time goes by. With regard to HIV treatments, how expensive is it?
Dr. H.M Ravi: Actually, with regards to HIV/AIDS, the government has set up a national health program, wherein Anti-Retroviral treatment centers are set up throughout the country, where free treatment and counseling are being delivered to those infected.
Digit: That’s interesting! We’re glad that that’s the case. Now, coming towards the end of our conversation but also a very crucial part, what happens when someone close to you - perhaps a family member or close friend has been affected with HIV? How does one take care of them on a personal level? Can you share some tips? 😊
Dr. H.M Ravi: Sure, in case someone close to you has been affected by HIV/AIDS, some of the ways to care for them, and support them would be:
· Ensure they’re going for regular consultations, treatments, and follow-ups.
· Encourage them to have healthy lifestyle habits. This would, of course, include both eating right (they should specifically have a high protein and vitamin diet) and also, exercising on a moderate level.
· Everyone needs someone, or a close-knit circle to count on. Make sure you’re there for them whenever they need you. 😊 Being active socially too is important. In fact, I believe the WHO theme of this year is dedicated to providing the right community support to people affected by AIDS.
· Alcohol and smoking is a strict no-no. So, if they drink or smoke, you may need to help them get out of it.
· Pursuing things that we love keeps us happy and engaged. Therefore, I think just being involved in activities they love (this goes for everyone!) should be encouraged.
· Most importantly, don’t let them get carried away by fake claims, false cures, witch hunters and faith healers. Wait for the declaration of the Nobel prize for the real cure.
Digit: Thanks, those are some really valuable insights and tips. We hope our readers find them helpful and that these tips can help someone out there. Thank you once again, Dr. Ravi, for your time and inputs. 😊