WYA Diaries: Integrity and Knowledge (integrated with a retrovirus)

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Quote for the day:

Integrity without knowledge is weak and useless, and knowledge without integrity is dangerous and dreadful.
– Samuel Johnson
English author, critic, & lexicographer (1709 – 1784)

Thank you, Cathy!!! You have reminded the idealistic fools that run the Asia Pacific office that we cannot run on passion, hopes and dreams alone. The good conscience that we always hope to follow must always be an informed conscience – and my God, the information we received this morning was a lot.


So today we learned about HIV – the human immunodeficiency virus. Among the many things that WYA can talk about – why HIV? Why do we even have a whole set of readings on such a virus and the dreaded disease (AIDS) that it can very possibly lead to?

What did I learn today? Maaaan, that HIV is one smart virus. It outsmarts our immune system. That is scary stuff right there. It is basically a virus that can lead to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). This weakens the body so much that one can die due to pneumonia or the common cold. People aren’t supposed to die because of a cold (and while we’re at it, people aren’t supposed to die of hunger either).

On a more optimistic note, we learned that HIV/AIDS is a behavioral disease. It can be transmitted only through sexual intercourse (oral, anal and vaginal), the use of infected needles and syringes (no more shooting up, people!) and through mother-to-child transmission (pregnancy, childbirth and even breastfeeding). So no, you cannot get sick from sharing a glass of water, or from hugging, shaking hands or swimming in the same pool. [Question from the audience – how about if you drink the water in the pool in which an infected person pees? Answer from Cathy – Ew.]

As simple as these modes of transmission may sound – it is simply not talked about enough. The stigma against people who have HIV or AIDS is just so strong. It’s different when you meet someone with cancer – you feel for them, you hug them, you go all out to show you care. But when it comes to HIV/AIDS it’s a little bit more different – a bit scarier. And in a way, yes it is scary because the drugs available cannot cure AIDS, it can just curb HIV from spreading – and yet, that in itself is still being developed and not widely accessible to the most hard-hit areas.

I honestly believe this fear is brought about because of the lack of information regarding the virus and the disease. (And well, for the more conservative, vindictive people – I think the stigma comes from the thought that because it is a behavioral disease – it is some form of punishment. And they think less of that person and perhaps won’t want to associate with that person… of course that is my own personal opinion of other people’s opinions… i could totally be wrong.) The more people know about how it comes about, the easier it is to prevent it from spreading — the easier it is to put people at ease as well (it is okay to hang with a person who is infected – yes, they are people too).

Looking at the map of the world – and seeing how the Philippines is doing when it comes to infection, we’re doing quite well compared to Africa. We shouldn’t fall into this false sense of security though – as much as sex is taboo in this country, so are sexually transmitted diseases – and so you have a large population that does not get tested. We definitely have more infected people than what is recorded.


For someone who has hardly dipped into the hard sciences, I actually really enjoy reading up on HIV/AIDS. I love how Cathy explained the whole transmission process of this retrovirus and how it integrates with our genome, replicating itself in our system…slowly making us crash ’til the common cold kills us. She used cartoons and colors and was incredibly patient with us soft scientists. If anyone wants to hear more about HIV/AIDS and it’s life cycle, how it spreads and the anti-retroviral drugs available – contact Cathy. 😛

Can’t wait to see the primers, Cathy!!! 🙂


~~ found this on my climb up ~~

One response to “WYA Diaries: Integrity and Knowledge (integrated with a retrovirus)”

  1. Eww to anyone who pees in a pool, with or without a virus. 🙂

    Thanks for asking me to do it! I am slowly assimilating into society. 😀