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Korea’s 1st HIV patient survives for 28 years under treatment

Korea’s 1st HIV patient survives for 28 years under treatment

Posted December. 02, 2013 06:27,   


Despite revolutionary development of treatment, misunderstanding and prejudice against AIDS remain unabated. On the occasion of World AIDS Day that fell on Sunday, The Dong-A Ilbo sat down with Prof. Lee Seon-hee of Infectious Diseases Department at Pusan National University Hospital to gain accurate knowledge on the disease.

Dong-A: Are all HIV-infected people AIDS patients?

“AIDS is an infectious disease, whose patient suffers from reduced immune function due to destruction of CD4 lymphoid, which can be considered the commander of immune cells, due to infection of Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Among HIV-infected people, only those who have displayed symptoms caused by immunodeficiency are AIDS patients. There are about 34 million people with HIV worldwide, and about 10,000 people with HIV in Korea.”

Dong-A: Will one get infected with HIV through kissing?

“Many people consider AIDS a lethal disease, but this is prejudice. Infectiousness of AIDS is very low and HIV is very weak virus. If exposed to air or water outside human body, it will lose its functionality within 24 hours. It is also vulnerable to heat, and dies only at about 60 degrees Celsius. Notably, since the virus gets inactivated in a very short period of time in chlorine at the density of tap water, it comes to lose infectiousness. HIV does not transmit through ordinary daily contacts with an HIV-infected person. It is only transmitted through sexual contact with or exposure to blood of the infected person. Some HIV virus exists in sweat, saliva and tears of an HIV-infected person, but HIV does not transmit to others in such conditions due to its lack of infectiousness. When properly treated and managed, an HIV-infected person can live an ordinary life as member of society without problems.”

Dong-A: Is AIDS an incurable disease that kills the AIDS patient eventually?

“Significant progress has been made in treatment methods in recent years. If a patient gets early diagnosis and constantly takes medicine, he or she can live for nearly the average life expectancy just like patients of other chronic diseases. A person identified by his last name Park, who was diagnosed as the first Korean infected with HIV in December 1985, has proactively taken treatment, and is still living healthy until today, some 28 years later. “

Dong-A: Is the diagnostic test very expensive?

“If an AIDS patient takes medicine constantly, it can prevent HIV reproduction and protect the immune system, which in turn slows the progression of AIDS as much as possible. If a patient fails to follow medication, HIV can mutate and easily develop resistance to the drug. One can take HIV diagnostic test anonymously at community health centers nationwide through the National AIDS Control Project of the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The test is free.”

“In Korean society, people still lack knowledge and understanding about AIDS, which causes HIV-infected people to suffer from social discrimination. This is a factor that hampers early diagnosis and treatment. In order for our society to remove unsubstantiated fear and prevent transmission, we should recognize HIV-infected people as normal members of our society, and proactively support their treatment.”