Thursday, June 26, 2014

'AIDS' For Thought

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On a regular day, a staff nurse from the operation theatre makes an emergency call to the laboratory, and only she is aware of the number of times she does that before any surgical procedure and asks “HIV / HBsAg?”, “ Negative Sister, your name? ” we reply and also inquire for confidentiality purpose and inform the much needed report. The PPM (Personal Protective Measures) and other procedures that is to be followed in addition to the ones already in practice  is another ordeal if the status is otherwise positive. 

Meanwhile in the obstetrics department a pregnant lady waits for her report, a pathologist gets pricked accidentally during sampling, a surgeon is already undergoing post exposure prophylaxis, a newly married couple is undergoing counselling in the PPTCTC (Prevention Of Parent To Child Transmission Centre), a high risk patient refuses testing in fear of the result, an already diagnosed patient thinks maybe the infection is of less harm than the treatment, a doctor worries about his patient’s CD 4 count or about the recent cold or cough he developed, many consent forms are signed, blood vials are fed into the machines for testing, Western Blots are run for retest, reference laboratories are contacted, statistics worked upon and health authorities informed. Day in and out, HIV/AIDS looms around us like a death eater in hood, outside as well as inside the hospitals. There is no person or organ of him/ her that it spares. Having said that and experienced it from a doctor’s perspective what compels me to write this post is the recent hubbub about it.

This is what our health minister had to say:

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And the reporters reported that he said:

And then the clarifications, explanations and discussions that followed:

I have tried compiling most of the news that I could come across since yesterday and they are here in this list, after having read them I can only agree with Edward Murrow, the American journalist who puts matters such as these in perfect sense by saying “We are in the same tent as the clowns and the freaks-that’s the show business”. While our tweets and status updates are adding to the heated argument on what he said and why he said so, we need to realize that any point which we think and put across is futile unless it goes beyond the ‘condom vs culture’ debate because ‘HIV/AIDS’ is not just about that. We all have our share of responsibility in making and taking such news. I wish the science of our minds; be it the ministers, the policy makers, the reporters or the readers who read and react to this was more sensible than sensitive. Criticizing anyone or anything here serves no purpose. As an adult, as a person of medicine, as someone who has read enough about the virus and the disease and who has seen the ones battling this infection my understanding is based only on my learning and experience, well I have tried to put it up in a picture today:

“Viruses have no morality, no sense of good and evil, the deserving or the undeserving.... AIDS is not the swift sword with which the Lord punishes the evil practitioners of male homosexuality and intravenous drug use. It is simply an opportunistic virus that does what it has to do to stay alive.”

- Chris Crutcher in King of the Mild Frontier –

As straight as that.


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