God, AIDS, Africa & HOPE

pensées of a Catholic priest

Reading day…

There are so many articles and blogs about HIV and AIDS that one could read for days without getting through all of them. Here is a selection of what caught my eyes in the last days:

A dream to end AIDS – a short notice about one of the researches who discovered the HI virus. It reminds us of the long way still ahead for millions of people to be able to live with HIV

Truvada as PrEP lowers Herpes infection – a new study suggests the drug can also lower infection rates of genital herpes, despite opponent concerns that use of PrEP would lead to an increase in STDs including herpes

What spirituality really means – we all talk about it in our days and most people living with the virus discover it for themselves as a source of meaning and stability in life

8 ways to find your spirituality – putting the word into practice for those interested

What’s your long term risk in transmitting HIV – an interesting question and some maths has been applied in this article more for those into sciences and mathematical models

And always pop onto our website www.hopecapetown.com and get the newest information on what we are doing..

Enjoy reading!

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, HOPE Cape Town Trust, Medical and Research, Networking, Politics and Society, Reflection, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Vetting the press…

HIV-1 Gag

HIV-1 Gag (Photo credit: AJC1)

There is so much information floating the internet regarding HIV and AIDS and I spend quite some hours per week just going through it all to see what is new and what kind of developments are important for activists and doctors and patients. Here now a variety of links to interesting articles of the last week:

The first one is rather for doctors and it deals with resistance of HIV. It is about fusion inhibitor and optimizing a medication so that resistance is not an issue anymore.
Journalmed: Neues Anti -HIV -Peptid ohne Nebenwirkungen und Resistenzbildung (German) click here
American Society for microbiology (English) click here

The second one is about the laws of Missouri, which make every HIV positive person per se a criminal click here

The third is for those interested in research and deals with the  simulation of maturation of the virus click here

The forth and last for today is about the story behind the story: Reporting on HIV click here

Enjoy reading and learning more of the world of researchers, activists or people affected by or infected with HIV.

Filed under: General, HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, Politics and Society, Society and living environment, Uncategorized, , , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

AIDS Gestapo…

Sometimes, discussions are getting out of hand – and this one has certainly gone out of hand. Offering cash prizes for getting tested is a decision, one surely can debate and argue about. But the question of criminalization of HIV transmission is a much deeper going one and Helen Zille, premier of the Western Cape (SA)  and TAC (Advocacy group) should avoid to debate it in a wording and style which does not help the cause. What is meant by “willing infecting” somebody – does it mean, that everybody, who has not done a test and having sex without protection is “willing” to pass on the virus. Or must there be a real intention, so consideration before the act? Fact is, that criminalization is not a tool for HIV prevention – common sense is also that I always expect from both persons engaging in sex to prevent a possible transmission in any case – be it HIV or any other STI.  Both have the responsiblity to either clarify it or protect or decide to take the risk in a responsible way. It can never be one-sided. Being on HAART for 6 month, undetectable and no STI means that the risk of transmission is likely to be the same like a broken condom.
Word like “AIDS Gestapo” or “racist” have no place in such a serious debate. It is about responsiblity, ending stigma, avoiding discrimination and protecting the rights of each and everybody even in the privacy of their bedrooms. A very sensible place – and a very sensible topic which deserves wording living up to the seriousness of the topic.

Read more: http://www.iol.co.za/news/politics/zille-slams-aids-gestapo-1.1192047

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Prevention, HIV Treatment, Politics and Society, Society and living environment, , , , , , , , ,

13.10.2009 Nobody dies of AIDS…

What exactly is Aids? What does the infamous HI-virus do? You may well argue that these questions are inane, considering that the pandemic has raged for more than a quarter of a century and that these terms have been widely used and discussed in the mass media. Yet, they are both absolutely relevant questions, because there is still a lot of confusion. The topic is eternally controversial, so its vocabulary tends to be used and manipulated to support one point of view or the other. Many people don’t even know the difference between HIV and Aids, as becomes apparent every time a well-meaning visitor comes to HOPE Cape Town and asks to see the “Aids babies”. The difference between HIV and Aids is critical: Aids is not a pathogen, nor an illness, but a syndrome. When the HI-virus has worn down the immune system, the body has no defences against viruses and bacteria. The patient then clinically enters into the final stage of a process that, without intervention, will inevitably culminate in death. The term commonly used for that stage is “full-blown Aids”. But note that the patient does not die directly from the consequences of the HI-virus’ attack, but from a so-called opportunistic illness which exploits the immune weakness of the body. In Cape Town’s township that opportunistic illness is mostly tuberculosis. But back to the basics: HIV is the acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus and refers to the pathogen which first resided in the bodies of Central African monkeys – in peaceful coexistence with the host animals. At some point in the last century the virus (Latin for “poison”) was transmitted to humans, possibly after the consumption of simian meat. Then the laws of evolution kicked in, setting off a battle of life and death because the human immune system can’t expel this invader.
How does one become infected? Most people will immediately answer: by having sex. A simple enough answer to a simple question – and that is precisely why the actual process of infection is usually ignored. To put it in simple terms, nobody gets infected through sex. Rather, the virus is transmitted through the exchange of bodily fluids. This delicate distinction may seem pedantic, but in the dialogue about Aids prevention and the stigmatisation of infected people it is crucial.
Sexuality does not just mean the mechanical exchange of bodily fluids; it’s also an expression of affection and love between spouses and life partners. The challenge we are facing is to reduce or even neutralise the inherent dangers of exchanging bodily fluids.
Besides the sexual context, there are other ways of contracting HIV. Every accident, every needle prick, every jointly used razor, every blood transfusion creates the risk of infection.
Blood, sperm, pre-ejaculate and vaginal secretions are the bodily fluids that contain the highest concentration of HIV. Breast milk has a lower density of the virus, but it is transmitted in great volumes during the regular nursing of infants. We can safely ignore all other bodily fluids as potential transmitters. There are no documented cases of tears, saliva or sweat causing contagion.
The virus also can’t penetrate skin. Provided the skin is healthy, blood or sperm present no hazard. The virus can penetrate skin only through open scratches, wounds or injuries to the epidermis.
And it’s not just HIV-negative people who must avoid the exchange of bodily fluids, but also people who already are infected. They can be infected a second time, because the HI-virus mutates when it is being replicated and “individualises” itself in the human body. This medical fact should bust the myth that those who are HIV-positive don’t need to protect themselves anymore. HIV is a so-called retrovirus, which means it cannot replicate by itself. To replicate, the virus needs cells on to which it can attach itself – the white blood cells, the generals of our immune system. They are then converted to produce new HI-viruses, in their thousands per millilitre of blood. These settle in the whole body, but according to latest studies especially in the intestinal tract. If pathogen finds an unsuitable host, the virus loses its potency and dies off. And what happens after infection? In the first stage after contagion many people suffer from flu-like symptoms, swelling of the lymph nodes, and aches in the head, throat and muscles. The virus reproduces in its millions, particularly in the first few weeks after infection – at that time the risk of transmission to others is extremely high. The second stage is called the asymptomatic phase because the infected person now feels completely well. But the virus keeps spreading in the blood, inconspicuously and slowly, and gradually weakens the immune system by corrupting the CD-4 cells, which in healthy bodies help fight off invaders, but now become hosts for the virus through which to multiply. That phase can take years. The infected person is apparently healthy, and the infection can be determined only through an HIV antibody or PCR test.
In the third stage serious symptoms appear: significant weight loss, skin fungi, herpes, skin ulcers like Kaposi’s sarcoma, dysentery, sustained fever and so on. In the fourth and final stage the virus finally conquers the immune system, and the patient becomes susceptible to serious illnesses such as tuberculosis, though even harmless infections can be lethal.
The majority of antiretroviral medicines on the market stop the reproduction of the virus in the white blood cells. But pathogens that proliferate at a rapid pace also make “mistakes” – that’s how genetic mutations of the virus occur. These mutated strains of HIV, creating what is known as resistance, can compromise the efficacy of the antiretroviral drugs. That’s why it is important to inhibit the multiplication of the pathogens in first place. If fewer viruses are produced, the possibility of mutation decreases. That can be achieved only through a fixed regimen of dosages of antiretroviral agents in the body. There are two reasons why no method of removing the virus from the body has been found so far: firstly, the virologists don’t know yet exactly where in the body all the pathogens are hosted; secondly, the virus can pretend to be “sleeping”.
Recent research has intensified to combine medications with a view to easing the use and load of the pills. The product Atripla, for example, covers the necessary daily cocktail of medications with a single pill.
In America a drug going by the name MK-0518 has been developed. It inhibits the so-called integrase enzyme of the HI virus – the integrase adds viral genetic material into the host cell’s DNA, which then allows the infected cell to produce new copies of the virus. Parallel to that pharmaceutical research,
testing continues on microbicide gels which can be applied to the vagina before sexual intercourse to kill the virus before it can reach the blood stream. Research is also being conducted into anti-HIV vaccines, but the scientists dampen our hopes: it might be ten years or more before there will be any breakthrough. Even though after the many reports about the vaccine trial in Thailand.. there is a long way to go…

Filed under: HIV and AIDS, HIV Treatment, Medical and Research, , , , , , ,

08.10.2009 secret gag order?

Since I took up my post as Fidei Donum priest in the Archdiocese of Cape Town, I am asked again and again what secret deal I have made, what kind of restrictions are lying on me to be able to work in the fields of HIV and AIDS for the church. And seems that people doubt it when I say, that there has been no burden laid on me in any form. The frame of my work constitutes our faith, which means that we have to proclaim that everybody is loved by God and that this love is unconditional. The frame is marked by the message of Jesus, that we are all brothers and sisters and that we have to care for each other. The frame is set by the spirit of God, his good spirit allowing all men and women to achieve full potential of their lives if it is not messed up by the fellow brothers and sisters. The framework consists of the message of justice for all, peace for all and an environment, which will keep a future for our kids and the kids of the kids.

I never doubted or lost that framework, and that is why I believe that it must be possible to talk to each other without any anxiety, to meet each other, to listen to each other. I will always be concerned if man of the cloth or employees of the church don’t meet this basic rule. I suspect, that if there is anxiety to speak to one another, there is a lack of experience of God’s unconditional love.
Nevertheless, in the framework of our faith I am working now in the new portfolio and I have no intention to change that frame. I believe that religion and faith has much power to give to the people, lots of strength, and hope and believe in a good future. And all this I want to take to those here in South Africa, who are stigmatized thought the pandemic and this little virus called HI virus.

Lets see how it all develops…

Filed under: HOPE Cape Town Association & Trust, Networking, Reflection, , , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

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© Rev Fr Stefan Hippler and HIV, AIDS and HOPE.
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