Diagnosed with HIV / AIDS? What next...?

Cathy sits at a corner, heartbroken. Here she feels like her dreams to become a great accountant are shattered as she recounts those heart-stopping words from her doctor, "I am sorry Cathy...you are HIV positive." What is the way forward? This question is yet to have an answer in Cathy's mind.

Elsewhere, Richard is drinking with wild abandon. He feels equally as hopeless about his tomorrow. He keeps asking the bartender, "What is life?!" Richard was recently diagnosed with HIV. Since then, the young man has resorted to reckless drinking.

Yet in another corner, Lesley carries out her chores with a bright smile on her face! After two hours of intense work, she steps aside to take some medication. What are those? Anti Retroviral Drugs (ARVs)! Yes, Lesley is HIV positive yet she is all joyful as she has overcome the fear of living with HIV / AIDS and is optimistic about life.

"Being diagnosed with HIV / AIDS is not a death sentence," says Dr Edith Njit epouse Ngarka, a Medical Doctor at the HIV Treatment Centre of the University Teaching Hospital (CHU) Yaounde - Cameroon.

The World AIDS Day is commemorated every 1st December worldwide. The day is usually marked by sensitisation on the disease which is the number one killer in the world. In spite of the sensitisation and awareness endeavours in relation to HIV and AIDS, many are yet to understand how to manage the disease.

Photo: UNAIDS.

A Medical Doctor, Dr Edith Njit epouse Ngarka (pictured below) , explains the way forward after being diagnosed with HIV.

"The first thing to know about being HIV positive is that the disease is not curable. You will have to live with HIV for the rest of your life like someone with any other chronic disease like hypertension or diabetes. You will be given medication to take for life, and you will need to make routine visits to the doctor every three months for follow up," she explains. Having the HIV virus in your blood does not mean you will become sick. You only fall sick when the concentration of the virus is too high in your blood. It weakens your immune system and makes it vulnerable to disease," the doctor explains.

Dr Edith Ngarka then goes further to explain the work of anti retroviral drugs (ARVs), "They have as role to stop the multiplication of the HIV virus and bring down the concentration of the virus to non-detectable levels. This way, the immune system is no longer vulnerable to opportunistic infections and the person is not likely to transmit the virus."

Photo: UNAIDS.

And who says you cannot lead a normal life when you are HIV positive? Of course, you can, so reassures the medical expert, "Regular intake of medication and respect of routine visits to the hospital is vital for a good quality of life. Anybody who is HIV positive and has non-detectable viral loads can lead a normal life: work, marry and have children who are not infected."

The health expert adds that during routine visits to the doctor, the patient's general clinical state and adherence to therapy will be assessed. "You will be required to do a series of laboratory tests at least once a year to check for the efficiency of medication and any side effects."

The medical expert however notes that not taking drugs regularly and not respecting the hours for drug intake could lead to drug resistance. In such cases, the Doctor explains, another combination of ARVs are administered to the patient.

Photo: UNAIDS.