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Women put face to HIV campaign

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    Women put face to HIV campaign - 21-Feb-2008
    Southland grandmother Jan Waddell has one wish she wants to die from old age and not the HIV retrovirus she got from a contaminated needle in Australia six years ago.

    Until then the former nurse wants people to deal with their ignorance, learn about women with HIV, and get rid of their negative reaction and discrimination.

    Mrs Waddell (59), who with her husband runs a small lifestyle block with alpacas, goats, sheep and chickens at Mataura, is one of the public faces of a campaign by Auckland HIV and Aids support group, Positive Women.

    The campaign, launched in Auckland yesterday, wants to overcome the common but misguided impression that women with HIV are different and should be feared and avoided.

    "We are no different to anybody else and thatís the message we want to get across," said Mrs Waddell.

    She contracted HIV in Australia in 2002 in a one-in-amillion chance, when she pricked her thumb with a contaminated needle as she put it into a "sharps" container, which is used for sharp instruments and syringes.

    She was confirmed as having HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, about three months later.

    Without treatment, HIV can lead to Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and death. With modern treatment, HIV patients can live a long life, some without side effects from the drugs they must take.

    Jane Bruning, Positive Women national co-ordinator, who first learned she had HIV 20 years ago, said HIV did not automatically lead to Aids.

    "Nowadays, there are such good medications and people are living 20, 30 years and more, so it is possible you may not die from HIV although you will have to take medications for most of your life."

    She said HIV was not restricted to the gay community and recently the number of heterosexual people with HIV, particularly women, was growing.

    By 2006, the number of women with HIV had passed the number of gay men with the disease.

    For Mrs Waddell, living with HIV had been an emotional challenge but she coped with a lot of support from her family and friends.

    She believes she will probably live out her life without contracting Aids, particularly with the huge advances in HIV medicines.

    However, with the medicines come the side effects.

    "I have had so many side effects. In the last six years, I have been on four different combos because of side effects.

    "I have had muscle wasting, fatigue, nausea. I have had problems with my liver, kidney stones, insomnia, a whole lot of things.

    "I am doing pretty well at the moment and the top of my wish list is that old age will get me before Aids does.

    "The realities are pretty good."

    She said modern medications were giving a quantity of life and a better quality of life was just around the corner.

    "It is not the death sentence it once was."

    HIV also came with another side effect which Mrs Waddell and her husband decided on jointly: sex is no longer part of their life because HIV can be passed on through sexual contact.

    "My husband and I decided at the very early stages we would absolutely abstain from everything. We were quite comfortable with that in our married life and still are and that has never been a problem for us."

    She concedes doing without sex could be a big issue for some couples where one had been diagnosed as HIV positive.

    "There is always that worry that something will go wrong the condom will fail."

    For Mrs Waddell and her husband it was a personal choice but it also depended on the strength of their relationship and how understanding the partner was.

    It could put a huge stress on relationships but for Mrs Waddell and her husband, it meant a stronger relationship.

    "We talked about it. There are other things that are more important to him."

    She said her husband understood what HIV was and had been supportive and understanding.

    Her advice to other couples facing an HIV crisis was to be honest with each other.

    "You have to sit down and talk to each other and be totally honest. You have to say if you are going to miss this sex then we have to make a decision.

    "But I think it would be very hard for them."

    She also urged people to get all the support they could from friends and family and any specialist groups such as Positive Women, where they could talk freely and not worry about any stigma.

    She said there was not enough education to overcome the "fear of the unknown" among people who did not know enough about HIV or Aids.

    She said people did not want to come near her or touch her for fear of catching HIV.

    Many also felt it was a disease restricted to the homosexual community.

    "There are so many people out there who still believe it is called the gay plague and it is just ridiculous people can be thinking like that in this day or age."

    Until then the former nurse wants people to deal with their ignorance, learn about women with HIV, and get rid of their negative reaction and discrimination.

    Mrs Waddell (59), who with her husband runs a small lifestyle block with alpacas, goats, sheep and chickens at Mataura, is one of the public faces of a campaign by Auckland HIV and Aids support group, Positive Women.

    The campaign, launched in Auckland yesterday, wants to overcome the common but misguided impression that women with HIV are different and should be feared and avoided.

    "We are no different to anybody else and thatís the message we want to get across," said Mrs Waddell.

    She contracted HIV in Australia in 2002 in a one-in-amillion chance, when she pricked her thumb with a contaminated needle as she put it into a "sharps" container, which is used for sharp instruments and syringes.

    She was confirmed as having HIV, or the human immunodeficiency virus, about three months later.

    Without treatment, HIV can lead to Aids (acquired immune deficiency syndrome) and death. With modern treatment, HIV patients can live a long life, some without side effects from the drugs they must take.

    Jane Bruning, Positive Women national co-ordinator, who first learned she had HIV 20 years ago, said HIV did not automatically lead to Aids.

    "Nowadays, there are such good medications and people are living 20, 30 years and more, so it is possible you may not die from HIV although you will have to take medications for most of your life."

    She said HIV was not restricted to the gay community and recently the number of heterosexual people with HIV, particularly women, was growing.

    By 2006, the number of women with HIV had passed the number of gay men with the disease.

    For Mrs Waddell, living with HIV had been an emotional challenge but she coped with a lot of support from her family and friends.

    She believes she will probably live out her life without contracting Aids, particularly with the huge advances in HIV medicines.

    However, with the medicines come the side effects.

    "I have had so many side effects. In the last six years, I have been on four different combos because of side effects.

    "I have had muscle wasting, fatigue, nausea. I have had problems with my liver, kidney stones, insomnia, a whole lot of things.

    "I am doing pretty well at the moment and the top of my wish list is that old age will get me before Aids does.

    "The realities are pretty good."

    She said modern medications were giving a quantity of life and a better quality of life was just around the corner.

    "It is not the death sentence it once was."

    HIV also came with another side effect which Mrs Waddell and her husband decided on jointly: sex is no longer part of their life because HIV can be passed on through sexual contact.

    "My husband and I decided at the very early stages we would absolutely abstain from everything. We were quite comfortable with that in our married life and still are and that has never been a problem for us."

    She concedes doing without sex could be a big issue for some couples where one had been diagnosed as HIV positive.

    "There is always that worry that something will go wrong the condom will fail."

    For Mrs Waddell and her husband it was a personal choice but it also depended on the strength of their relationship and how understanding the partner was.

    It could put a huge stress on relationships but for Mrs Waddell and her husband, it meant a stronger relationship.

    "We talked about it. There are other things that are more important to him."

    She said her husband understood what HIV was and had been supportive and understanding.

    Her advice to other couples facing an HIV crisis was to be honest with each other.

    "You have to sit down and talk to each other and be totally honest. You have to say if you are going to miss this sex then we have to make a decision.

    "But I think it would be very hard for them."

    She also urged people to get all the support they could from friends and family and any specialist groups such as Positive Women, where they could talk freely and not worry about any stigma.

    She said there was not enough education to overcome the "fear of the unknown" among people who did not know enough about HIV or Aids.

    She said people did not want to come near her or touch her for fear of catching HIV.

    Many also felt it was a disease restricted to the homosexual community.

    "There are so many people out there who still believe it is called the gay plague and it is just ridiculous people can be thinking like that in this day or age."

    She said being part of a campaign which had never been undertaken in New Zealand, was a wonderful experience.
    Ref: - Otago Daily Times


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