In commemoration of World AIDS Day today, marking its 30th anniversary, we prepared an article-feature to spread awareness and help curb the rising cases of HIV infection and correct the stigma and discrimination that afflicts those living in this medical condition, and especially those working onboard.
AIDS/HIV: Are you aware?
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the most advanced stage of an HIV infection, when the immune systems can no longer fight infections. AIDS is life threatening and there is no cure. However, if HIV is caught early and treated, it is unlikely to lead to AIDS. It is therefore important to get tested early if you have been at risk of HIV, as it will mean that you can access treatment that will prevent you developing AIDS. The disease is passed from person to person primarily through sexual contact; it is only spread in certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV, the virus that causes AIDS. These fluids are
- pre-seminal fluids,
- rectal fluids,
- vaginal fluids and
- breast milk
HIV is a virus that attacks immune cells called CD-4 cells, which are a subset of T cells. AIDS is the syndrome, which may or may not appear in the advanced stage of HIV infection.
- HIV is a virus!
- AIDS is a medical condition!
Back in the ‘80s
It is said and written that more than 25 million people have dies since 1981 from the virus. AIDS came on the scene in the US in the early 1980’s and was a terminal disease for virtually anyone who was infected during that time. Now the disease is much more manageable; considered a chronic disease that people can live with for decades.
Know the signs of HIV infection
- joint pain
- muscle aches
- sore throat
- sweats (particularly at night)
- enlarged glands
- a red rash
- unintentional weight loss
It is of essence to remember that the aforesaid symptoms appear when the body is fighting off many types of viruses, not just HIV. However, in case that several of these symptoms are being noticed and individuals believe that could have been at risk of contracting HIV in the last few weeks, a test should be taken.
Important initiatives on AIDS/HIV
Seafarers are particularly vulnerable to HIV/AIDS. On the Zero Discrimination Day 2018, the International Transport Workers’ Federation (ITF) dedicated to raise awareness of this and ending the stigma around HIV/AIDS through a campaign to promote awareness around the globe.
“Transport workers are at a high risk of contracting and transmitting the HIV virus. The knock-on effects are considerable, impacting upon not only the sufferer, but also their family, community, the enterprise concerned and the economy as a whole.”
In 2017, ITF, along with its union AMOSUP and the Joint Manning Group (JMG), supported launch of the first self-help and support group network of HIV-positive seafarers in the Philippines, called Positibong Marino Philippines (PMP).
- UK P&I Club:
On the occasion of World's AIDS Day, every year on 1 December, the UK P&I Club reminds that with the right treatment, people with HIV can live a long and healthy life. The Club also notes that the 2018 SAFETY4SEA Initiative Award 2018 winner PEME programme (pre-employment medical examination) includes consented HIV screening and counselling, if permitted by local law.
The Club advises:
“Protect yourself by using contraception, such as condoms, every time you have sex. Get tested and know your partner’s HIV status. Don’t share needles with anyone. Get tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases (STDs)”
“If you don’t have HIV but are at high risk of becoming infected with HIV, talk to your healthcare provider about pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). PrEP involves taking a specific HIV medicine every day to reduce the risk of HIV infection.”
The International Seafarers’ Welfare and Assistance Network’s (ISWAN) Seafarer’s Health Information Programme, informs on AIDS/HIV among other health problems mentioning that
“Taking precautions against sexually transmitted infections is important when travelling.”
The programmes resources include a guide for seafarers, guidelines for shipping companies and a range of posters to help prevent the risk of STIs, HIV and AIDS.
Moreover, ISWAN provides a free, confidential helpline 24/7 for seafarers facing problems including health issues such as AIDS. The line is now available on Viber from Monday to Friday between 08:00 and 18:00, UK time.
Earlier this year, the Republic of Marshall Islands(IRI) issued a circular, citing requirements for shipboard occupational health and safety programs (SOHSP) and informing of restrictions on work that is considered hazardous to seafarers under 18 years old, including the HIV-AIDS risks, related concerns, and other health-related activities.
About the World Aids Day
Originated back at the 1988 World Summit of Ministers of Health on Programmes for AIDS Prevention, every year the World’s AIDS Day brings together United Nations agencies, governments and civil society to a campaign around specific themes related to AIDS.