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If you are HIV+ Get treatment for opportunistic diseases

By Faeza
24 March 2017

By Clement Fana Ntuli

HIV destroys cells in your immune system, which defends your body against infections

and diseases. Once HIV has destroyed your immune system, you become vulnerable to

infections or diseases that take advantage of your compromised immune system. These include tuberculosis, pneumonia, shingles and meningitis. These diseases can also affect someone who is not HIV positive and must not be interpreted to mean that once someone has them they are HIV positive. However, it is common to develop them when you

are HIV positive.

PERSONAL EXPERIENCE

In my journey with HIV, I have had quite a few opportunistic infections. It was nine years after being diagnosed while I was in prison that I woke up to a running stomach and it turned out to be diarrhoea. I also had TB. Despite knowing about them, the care offered to inmates back then was pathetic. In addition to these two illnesses, I also had cryptococcal meningitis. I was eventually wheelchair- bound for several months. After being released

on medical parole, I was treated for TB twice and also experienced pneumonia.

TREATABLE

Almost all opportunistic infections are treatable. There is Directly Observed Treatment Short (DOTS) for TB, antibiotics for pneumonia, acyclovir or valacyclovir for shingles. One has to immediately get the professional diagnosis and access treatment for many of these opportunistic infections. I took DOTS and even the more intense one when the TB emerged again. I had to take an injection of streptomycin for 40 consecutive days. A high dose of antibiotics was administered for my pneumonia. Eventually, I was placed on ARVs in 2004 and since then my immune system has recuperated.

TREATMENT AS SOON AS POSSIBLE

Since our immune system is compromised by HIV, we need to treat any opportunistic infections as soon as possible. The reason for this is that any delay will worsen the condition, suppress the immune system further, prolong the process of treatment and even lead to death. While most people are reluctant to visit clinics, let this understanding serve as the motivation to treat all opportunistic infections as soon as possible.

YOU CAN DO IT

There is help available and more is being made available. Change your mindset and have the right attitude. You can overcome HIV and related opportunistic infections. The responsibility lies with you. These days I do not struggle with opportunistic infections, thanks to ARVs. However, if I have a cough, I quickly rush to the doctor to have it treated. This is the way to manage and be in control of your health. It is high time that we stop any further deaths due to HIV by taking a proactive stand, which means treating all opportunistic infections before they destroy us. It is possible. Be positive and you will beat HIV