Finding out whether you have HIV or not

November 25, 2010

There are a lot of important decisions to make in life.

One of them is finding out your own HIV status.  Are you infected with the HIV virus or not?

There is only one way to know – get the test done.  Which test?  The HIV-antibody test where a small amount of blood is taken and checked to see whether it contains HIV-antibodies.

If the test is ‘reactive’ to HIV-antibodies, it means that the body has recognised HIV in its blood.  If the blood sample came from me – it would mean that I am HIV positive.

Why should I know about my status?

Here are three key reasons:

1.  For my body’s sake.

If I am HIV positive – then the sooner I know about it – the sooner I can take the appropriate treatment.   Quick detection and prompt treatment means a far longer life.  Avoiding treatment doesn’t help – infact it harms.  The later I start treatment – the more damage the virus has done to me.   Remember that we must never give up hope!

Getting the right treatment for HIV makes all the difference.  A study in the US says that the average life expectancy – after finding out about HIV – is now 24 years!  And who knows how much longer I can live if new sets of medicines come on the scene in the coming years!  But all of this is useless unless I find out whether I have HIV or not – and then go to trusted people for treatment.

Do you need to know where to get treatment? We can help you at Jeevan Sahara Kendra.  If you are living in Thane we can directly provide treatment for you.  If you live outside – we will be able to guide you to a local provider who can help you move forward!  Come and visit us with all your medical papers!

2.  To protect others.

If I am HIV positive – then I want to protect those I love.  I will want to make sure that anyone I have had sexual contact with will be tested for the disease too.  I will also want to make sure that I do not infect anyone else.  Its bad enought that I have it – why should I spread it further.

If I am negative – wow! what a relief!  But it does mean that I will have to be very careful now to make sure that I do not get exposed to HIV again.  Best bet by far – being sexually faithful to my mutually faithful spouse!  Anything before marriage and any sex outside marriage is just too risky!  A negative report is a real gift – I won’t want to waste it!

There is a small chance that if I am negative now but have had a sexual exposure to a person who has HIV in the last 3 months before the test – that I may actually have the disease.  The chances of this are very small – but to make sure I really do not have it – I will need to have another HIV antibody test in 3 months to make sure.  Some people call this the ‘window’ period.  If I have not had any risk exposure in the 3 months prior to the test then I know for sure that I am ‘HIV negative’.

3. For peace of mind

Getting an HIV test can be very scary.  So scary that most of us will never want to really do it.

But if I do not get tested – and I know I have had some kind of exposure – or I am worried that my sexual partner has had some exposure – then that worry will continue to gnaw at me.

Its always better to know the truth!

If I am HIV negative – then I can move on with my life and make sure I do not expose myself again.

If I am HIV positive – then I can also move on in life – I can find out how much the virus has affected my immunity already – and can move forward to get better!

Jesus said at one point: “you will know the truth – and the truth will set you free.”  Knowing about my HIV status gives me the tools to live positively – knowing just what is going on – instead of carrying a huge burden of fear around with me wherever I go.

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So what are you waiting for?  If you believe you have had any kind of exposure that could have been dangerous for HIV – then come and get tested for HIV.

We are happy to help you get tested as Jeevan Sahara Kendra is a govt. recognised Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre.   We provide counselling and HIV testing from 10 am to 5.30 PM from Monday to Friday.

If you are coming from outside Thane or would like a Saturday appointment – please call us at 25899248 during office hours!

Look foward to serving you!

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Lets rise to the challenge!

September 29, 2010


Light a flame – shine a light

September 21, 2010

Life is tough.  And then there is the issue of HIV.

Many of us are afraid to face the truth.  Others of us have a loved one who we think may have HIV.  Most of us don’t know what to do…

A journey of a 1000 miles starts with a single step.   Its the same with any difficult problem.  Until we make a first step we will never see it solved.  Just closing our eyes does not help – in fact it only makes it worse.

Yesterday a man came to Jeevan Sahara Kendra with severe psychiatric problems.  He had been suffering with headaches for a month.  His wife and he knew that they were HIV positive.  But they did not tell anyone for years – because they were too afraid about what others will think.  Now this dear man needs urgent hospitalisation and an MRI scan to find out what is causing the severe problems he is facing.  All this could have been avoided by getting treatment at the right time.  There is still hope for this man – but it is harder to treat him now than it would have been a month ago.

How about you?  Are you scared about whether you may have HIV?  Are you worried about a loved one or a friend who you think may have it?

Tell someone else.  Its not easy, but its necessary.  We can’t go through this alone.  We need each other.  Pray and talk to God.  Get strength to carry you through the difficult times.

But don’t stay silent.  Get up and get an HIV blood test.  Knowing whether you or your loved one has HIV or not makes a huge difference.

If you or the ones you love do not have HIV – then you can move forward and work on ways of not getting exposed again.

If you are HIV positive – or have someone you love who is – then there are real ways that help.  HIV is not an ‘untreatable’ disease.  There are many good ways that we can use medications and other ways to treat the disease.  Like diabetes and some other illnesses – HIV/AIDS is a chronic ‘life-long’ disease – but we can make a huge difference.  You can contact your nearest Govt. ART centre for more guidance.  Or come to us at Jeevan Sahara Kendra if you live here in Thane.

It all depends on you.

Are you willing to act? To light a flame?  To shine a light?


HIV and H1N1 Influenza (Swine Flu)

July 15, 2010

H1N1 Flu (commonly known as ‘swine flu’) is a seriouis flu disease caused by an influenza virus and has been declared by the WHO as a world-wide pandemic (214 countries as of 2010).  The current pandemic (which was noticed in mid 2009) has killed an 18,000 people world-wide.

H1N1 Flu virus is spread through droplets in the air when people suffering from H1N1 infection cough and sneeze.  The H1N1 virus has shown that it is highly infectious – which is why it has spread so far despite the efforts of governments around the world to protect their citizens from the disease.

While the H1N1 flu is a cause for concern – we need not panic.   The last year’s experience has shown that most people infected with H1N1 flu were able to fight the virus successfully – mostly without special treatment other than the normal steps taken when a person has the flu.   The H1N1 virus did however cause severe illenesses (resulting in deaths when not quickly and intensively treated) in the following at-risk populations:

  • pregnant women;
  • infants, and young children particularly under age 2;
  • people of any age with certain chronic health conditions (including asthma or lung disease, heart disease, diabetes, kidney disease or some neurological conditions);
  • people with severely compromised immune systems – which includes many people who have HIV/AIDS.

As a nation, India has not been spared.  Starting with infections in mid 2009, over 29,000 known cases of H1N1 were reported – and over 1300 Indians were reported to have died from the flu.  A particularly  high profile case of H1N1 infection was the CM of Gujarat Sri Narendra Modi. Maharasthra bore the brunt of the infections with over 470 people officially recorded to have died of H1N1 flu since August 2009 – the largest number of any Indian state.

As this post is being written (July 14, 2010) we have just heard that 330 new cases were reported across India last week – with 91 of those coming from Maharashtra.

We thus need to protect ourselves from H1N1 – especially if we are HIV positive which means that our immune system is lower than most others – and that we are at higher risk of getting the infection.

How can we prevent H1N1?  Last year – when the papers had reports of daily deaths in Pune and Mumbai – all of Mumbai started wearing surgical masks.  People who could not afford masks wore handkerchiefs or put their dupattas over their faces.  Then after a few days of slightly lower death reports in the papers most stopped wearing them.

How can we best protect ourselves?

Obviously by covering your mouth and nose while coughing and sneezing.  That holds true any airborne disease – TB and other viral infections like the common cold spread this way too.  Its just good manners for me to keep the germs that are troubling me to myself.

Here is a little secret – which will do a HUGE amount of GOOD – for both HIV positive and HIV negative people:

The BEST way to PREVENT H1N1 (SWINE) FLU is by WASHING YOUR HANDS!

Yes that is right!  The flu spreads through the air – but it is usually when we touch the virus with our hands – and then our eyes, nose, or mouth – that the virus is most efficiently transmitted.  So how to break this chain of transmission?  WASH YOUR HANDS!

But how do we do that?  Don’t we wash our hands enough already?

Well, here it is – we need to really scrub.  And we can do so in 6 easy – but thorough steps.   Each one of these steps should be done for at least 30 seconds.   The whole procedure should take enough time for you to sing ‘happy birthday to you’ in your mind – twice!

Have we learned?  Lets do it.

Our health is very precious.  Whether we are HIV positive or not – hand-washing makes a huge impact on our health.  And if we are immuno-compromised with HIV – then it can be the difference between life and death!

Do we want to prevent the spread of H1N1?  Wash hands.  Wash hands.  Wash hands!

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TREATING H1N1 Flu

But what if I feel sick already – and especially if I know that I have HIV?  What should I do?

Well as you can see from the picture above,  the symptoms of H1N1 flu can include:

+ fever,
+ cough,
+ cold,
+ headache,
+ bodyache,
+ diarhoea and or vomiting,
+ breathing difficulty,
+ drowsyness and or / altered conciousness
Any HIV positive person (child or adult) with 2 of the first and at least one of the second group of symptoms should immediately go to a doctor and be treated with Oseltamivir (Tamiflu).

For those of us who are living with HIV – we must take our health seriously.  Do not be afraid to go to a doctor for medical advice. The time to treat is now – not later!


Choices

July 12, 2010

We make many choices in life.

One of the most important choice is actually a whole lot of choices that are related to our married life.

I bring to my life-partner the sum total of the choices that I have made till now.  My life-partner brings with her another set of choices that she has made.  Now we are linking our lives together.  Now we are linking our pasts together into the present – and the future.

Many of us will have made decisions that we are not proud about.  Many of us will have been in situations that we would rather have not entered.  Many of us have memories that are not happy – ones that we wish would go away…

As young people life can be confusing at times.  As not-so-young people life can also be quite confusing too.

Here are some things that we can do when we are confused:

1.  Take a deep breath and stop and think.

2.  Talk to someone whom you can trust.  Be honest about what is going on.

3.  Pray.  God is interested in what is happening.  Ask Him for help.  He hears you.

4.  Don’t be shy to seek help.  There are people who are trained as counsellors and advisors to assist you.

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Here is one important question to ask yourself if you are planning to get married.  It is one that we at Jeevan Sahara Kendra have a lot of experience with:

If you have been sexually active before your marriage – have you been tested for HIV?

Testing is quite scary to many people – but its very important to know the truth.  Especially since you are now going to be united with your life-partner.   There are many things that we may have wished that we had not done.  There are probably areas of our lives that we wish that we had made better choices in.  Well, the past is over.  But now the choice is ours about how to live from now on.

At Jeevan Sahara we want to help you as much as possible.   Call us up for an appointment to talk.  We are here for you.


Learning by doing

June 29, 2010

Take a look at the photo.  Who in this picture has made a difference by helping serve people with HIV in the last month?

Answer:  Each person.

Question No. 2:  Who of all of these gentlemen is a full time staff at JSK?

Answer:  Only Rahul Mohite (on the right hand in the yellow shirt).

We at JSK have been very blessed with some excellent interns over the past few months.  At one time we had 7 dear friends working along with our staff team.  This has allowed us to things that we normally cannot do – and has been a great help and encouragement to our staff.

For the past 5 years we have had interns from the Union Biblical Seminary in Pune who come and serve with us for 7 months of practical training.  This year we also hosted 2 final year MSW students for their block placements.  Over the years Jeevan Sahara has hosted students for practical service opportunities serving people with HIV.  The interns join our staff in the home visits, help organise JSK programmes, and participate along with our staff in as many ways as possible.

As much was we apprecitate the hands-on help that each of our intern friends have given to the work at Jeevan Sahara – we know that something deep is going on.  Each one of our intern friends is building a capacity to serve people with HIV in the future.  We have past Interns now serving all over India in different situations – and know that God is going to use this current crop to do amazing things in the future!


Steps into life

June 2, 2010

Six years ago we came across a boy.  He was 11 years old.  His parents had died of HIV.  His grandmother was looking after him.

Tarun (not his real name) was also HIV positive.

When we first met him, he kept falling sick.  He had TB.  His skin was infected.  He kept falling sick – with his grandmother bringing him to the clinic every 2 weeks or so with some sickness or other.

We then started him on Anti-Retroviral Therapy.  This was well before the government was providing the medications.  We bought the meds from the market and subsidised the medications – with a small monthly contribution coming from the boy’s family.

Today Tarun is 17 years old.  He has finished his class 10.  He is working at a part time job.  He is growing young man.

It all seemed so impossible then.  But we have seen how 5 years of ART have benefitted a boy who we thought may die in 2005.

By God’s grace our government has opened up ART centres in many parts of the country.  To get these medications free of cost is a great blessing.  Spend a moment to thank God for the Government health system.

Tarun has been receiving his medications from the local ART centre now for the past 3 years.  Your taxpayer money and mine help support this life-saving intervention.  Lets make sure it gets used though.

Get the word out that ART medications are available free for those who need them.  Encourage friends and family members with HIV to get tested and treated.  If you are affected yourself – then take a deep breath – and make a big step towards life.  Go and see what can be done.

There is always hope.  Step into life. Lets move forward!