Not too many people know this fact: AIDS has reached epidemic proportions in this country. I was shocked when my physician friend, Luis, who has made AIDS prevention his pet advocacy, rattled off statistics I wish I didn't hear.
He directed me to the AIDS Society of the Philippines website, and while there, I discovered one startling fact after another.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the final stage of HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) disease, which causes severe damage to the immune system. The virus attacks the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to life-threatening infections and cancers.
Common bacteria, yeast, parasites, and viruses that usually do not cause serious problems in people with healthy immune systems can cause fatal illnesses in those who are found to be HIV positive.
The virus can be spread:
- through sexual contact (including oral, vaginal, and anal sex)
- through blood (via blood transfusions or needle sharing)
- from mother to child (a pregnant woman can transmit the virus to her fetus through their shared blood circulation, or a nursing mother can transmit it to her baby through her breast milk)
“You cannot tell an HIV positive person from a healthy one,” Luis said. “They don't look sick in the beginning. Only as years go by, depending on their lifestyle, can one notice the tell-tale signs of the disease.”
For five months I researched on AIDS, because I was going to write a book about a vibrant life snuffed out prematurely by the fatal disease. In the process, I uncovered many facts about this new menace in Philippine society.
While attempting to write my first page, however, I came upon a series of roadblocks: the people I tried to interview simply clammed up, refusing to share what they know. The AIDS stigma is running strong.
After much soul searching and prayers for guidance, I realized I cannot write about cold hard facts alone; I need to feel how people feel, and be involved not as a chronicler, but as an active participant in the tableau. I can't be forever wondering from a distance what had really happened.
The scourge of AIDS is multi-textured; it involves the emotional, intellectual, physical (and most importantly, the spiritual) aspects of the human spirit.
Although the number of AIDS victims is decreasing worldwide, it is increasing in the Philippines at an alarming average rate of 25% per year. The country is now sixth in the world with the most number of AIDS cases.
(According to the Phil. National AIDS Council, "Cases among youth between 15 and 24 years of age have spiked 1,000% in the last three years. Given the general lack of knowledge and stigmatization of HIV, the official figures probably belie a far more serious situation.")
So now that I've decided I can't write the book, I need the grace of boldness to share what I know about AIDS, thus far, to the people in my close circles—with the hope of imparting the urgent need to help avert this social syndrome, or, at the very least, lessen its exponential spread.
This post is one such small step.
The following simple alphabet guide in avoiding AIDS was shared with me by Luis:
A – Abstain from sex; or
B – Be faithful, be monogamous to a person who is also monogamous;
C – Cling to God, call on Him;
D – Don't do drugs, desist from taking any substance that defiles your body;
E – Educate yourself on HIV, read up on it.
And here's an even simpler guide from the Scriptures:
“Run from anything that stimulates youthful lusts. Instead, pursue righteous living, faithfulness, love, and peace. Enjoy the companionship of those who call on the Lord with pure hearts.” 2 Timothy 2:22