This article tells the story of a man who was HIV-Positive as a child and how he overcame the challenges that came with it. In case you weren’t familiar, HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This virus attacks the immune system. AIDS or Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is a sexually transmitted disease caused by this virus. Unfortunately, science has yet to find a cure for this disease. However, there is treatment available that can help HIV-positive individuals live long and healthy lives.
He was HIV-Positive
It started in 1981. Mr. Banks was only two years old when he was diagnosed with Bilateral Wilms’ tumor which was a cancer of the kidneys. He had undergone many treatments such as chemotherapy, surgery and blood transfusions. During the process of treatment, he was transfused with blood that was infected with HIV. With the support and love from his family and friends, he was able to live a normal life. He worked hard to finish his studies.
Married of HIV-negative lady
However, one of the struggles he faced was having to find someone who would accept him, despite his illness, being HIV-Positive. He found this with his best friend, Kasiah, whom he married in 2003. They wanted to have a child who was healthy and HIV-free. They turned to existing methods that would allow them to have a healthy child. However, they were frustrated to learn that there was a lack of family planning data or information about their situation. They tried sperm washing and artificial insemination. Sperm washing is a technique used to screen for genetic disorders. The doctor starts the procedure by separating the sperm from the infected fluid using a centrifuge to ensure that it is free from any contamination. This will then be tested twice. Luckily, the results the couple received were negative for both tests. This was important to ensure that neither the wife nor child would contract the disease. Afterwards, the wife is artificially inseminated with the sperm. This process though is very lengthy and expensive. It is also important to take note that there is no 100% guarantee that it is risk-free. The virus may be still present in minute amounts.
Can HIV-Positive have a healthy, HIV-free family.
Mr. Banks shared his story to bring awareness and light to that HIV-Positive men can still reproduce and have a healthy, HIV-free family. More often than not, people who have HIV are stigmatized. People avoid having a relationship with an infected person for fear that they might contract the disease as well. This stigmatization can affect the life of the individual. For example, the individual may be discriminated at the workplace by being deemed unfit to work. Discrimination may also manifest in health care settings, barring people from accessing health services due to fear of humiliation. These people fear that their status would be disclosed. Across 19 countries with available data, one in five people living with HIV avoided going to the clinic or hospital for fear of stigma or discrimination. Even if they do eventually get treated later on, they wouldn’t respond as well to the treatment as they would have initially. The biggest issue for individuals with HIV are the marriage and childbearing options. Since HIV is sexually transmitted, marriage and childbearing without passing on the disease seems impossible to the person. Loss of income or livelihood, poor care within the health care sector, and loss of marriage and childbearing options are only a few of the struggles HIV-positive men and women face because of the stigmatization. These may also result to feelings of worthlessness, despair, and loss of hope.
There are numerous federal laws protecting HIV-Positive people from this form of discrimination. In the Philippines, one of these laws is the R.A. 8504 or the “Philippine AIDS Prevention and Control Act of 1988”. It is an act promulgating policies and prescribing measures for the prevention and control of AIDS/ HIV in the Philippines, instituting a AIDS/ HIV information and educational program, establishing a comprehensive AIDS/ HIV monitoring system, strengthening the Philippine National Aids council, and many more. What we, mere citizens, can do about this is to educate society on this topic as well as understand the rights of these individuals. Should there be any violation of these rights, we must act on those. Lastly, we must be very careful about our actions and words when handling such a delicate topic.