Let’s get to know opportunistic infection and coinfection

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Most of us must have known that unsafe sexual activities, unsterilized syringe usage, and getting blood transfusion from people with HIV/ AIDS are several common factors causing someone to suffer from HIV. As indicated by its name, the HIV virus only attacks people and their immune systems. Although it may not be directly felt, those with HIV will lose weight and are prone to various diseases.

But do you know that those with HIV are prone to Opportunistic Infection (OI) and Coinfection? It is very possible as their immune systems are in a very bad condition. On 3 May 2019, at the Friday Coffee Break event: Lecture Series by Research Center of HIV/ AIDS (PPH), Dr. Abraham Simatupang, M.Kes., explained that OI and Coinfection can be prevented so that they will not worsen.

What is an Opportunistic Infection? In fact, an OI is a condition where there is an infection by a pathogen on someone with weak immune system, for an instance on people with HIV. It is caused by the decreasing amount of T-cells, which are the key defender of our body. It makes it possible for other pathogens to easily “attack” our body defense. Some opportunistic infection cases can be very dangerous as they can result in death.

According to Dr. Abraham, some OIs with greatest numbers of cases on HIV patients are infections by tuberculosis, candida yeast, pneumocystic pneumonia and toxoplasma infection. The man who is also acting as a lecturer in a higher institution in Jakarta also reminded that HIV patients must really know early symptoms of OIs so that appropriate treatment can be administered before they get worse.

“People who are positively diagnosed with HIV indeed are prone to infections, especially tuberculosis and candida yeast. The most important thing is to identify early symptoms and go for required medical assessment to detect OI so that it will not get worse,” said Dr. Abraham.

The other condition often accompanying HIV is Coinfection. Coinfection or simultaneous infection is caused by viruses. Hepatitis A, Hepatitis B, and Hepatitis C infections are the common Coinfection on HIV patients. Like OIs, the weakened immune system becomes the main factor causing Coinfection.

Then what can be done to minimalize the risk? Prevention is the key point that needs to be done to minimalize both OIs and Coinfection. Regularly washing your hands before and after any activity, washing food ingredients and cooking them until cooked, wearing protection gears such as gloves and masks especially when doing outdoor activities, and doing sexual activities with protection are some steps that can help minimize the risk.

For those who have done sexual activities or used unsterilized syringe, it is advised that they do early medical check-up or consume PrEP (Profilaksis). Having self-awareness can help not only oneself but also others. The similar advice also applies to HIV patients. They had better regularly do medical examination to keep updated with their HIV status and consume provided medicine such as anti-retroviral (ARV). Please remember, HIV is not a death sentence!