Wednesday, August 31, 2011

New Resource: Don't Get Stuck With HIV Website and Blog

Given that this blog covers the issue of non-sexually transmitted HIV so much, I'm very happy to be involved in the creation and maintenance of a brand new website and blog called 'Don't Get Stuck With HIV'. The two main areas of non-sexually transmitted HIV are health care procedures and cosmetic services.

Some health care risks are fairly obvious. For example, if skin piercing equipment is not sterilized properly it can result in infection with HIV, hepatitis or various bacterial infections, effectively, whatever the last patient had. Whether the treatment is received at a health facility or a dental clinic, in the back of an ambulance or in an emergency scenario, the more you know the about the risks, the more you can do to avoid them.

Even getting a blood test, donating blood and certain kinds of traditional medicine, especially those that break the skin, such as male circumcision, can carry risks. And it's not just blood that can be contaminated: pus, urine, vaginal fluid, anal mucus and others can also pose a risk.

Some cosmetic risks may not be so obvious. Many would guess that getting a tattoo is risky if the studio is not following strict guidelines on safety and sterilization. But even some hairdressing processes can be risky: razors and other sharp instruments can be used (and reused!) and some hair products can irritate the skin and cause small lesions, which could facilitate infection.

The advice on the site is mainly aimed at people in developing countries, especially in African countries where HIV prevalence is high. If there are many HIV positive people in a population, this increases the chances of health and cosmetic services being involved in the spread of HIV, hepatitis and other diseases, such as scabies. But even people in wealthier countries need to be aware of such risks.

There have been numerous health care related outbreaks of blood borne diseases in wealthy countries and they still happen, despite the efforts of health care and cosmetic professionals to avoid them. But in poorer countries there is little or no research on the subject; UNAIDS and much of the HIV industry have little interest in commissioning research. Far from it, they vociferously deny that non-sexual transmission plays any part in high prevalence HIV epidemics, all of which are in sub-Saharan Africa.

A good way of keeping up to date with non-sexually transmitted HIV and hepatitis, especially health care related outbreaks, is to join the Safe Injection Global Network, which also has a brand new site. Their weekly email newsletter includes both research and media articles on the subject and you can subscribe by emailing the editor with 'subscribe' in your subject line.

The Don't Get Stuck With HIV website also has a blog, which will discuss some of the relevant issues arising. People are invited to comment, discuss, make suggestions or take part in any way that would promote recognition and understanding of this vital area of HIV transmission. There is also a Facebook page available and a Twitter account, so you can spread the news about Don't Get Stuck With HIV and follow the cause.


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