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CANCER & HIV LINKS

By Beatrice Tonhodzayi / Published on Thursday, 29 Sep 2016 21:04 PM / No Comments / 457 views

29 September 2016

AIDS COLUMN GRAPHIC

CANCER has become a serious cause of concern. Against such a background; it has become necessary for all of us to appreciate and understand what cancer is all about.

In the month of October; Zimpapers will be focusing on Cancer with a view to educate the public about the types of cancers that are out there.

This is part of the business’ corporate social responsibility initiative. Zimpapers partnered Island Hospice in a bid to raise awareness to the serious problem that is cancer today.

It is a fact. Cancer is serious business. Cancer is a reality. Cancer is lethal and has seen many people dying. It is therefore important for people to be aware of the disease. It is high time we all knew what cancer is and the risks thereof.

It is also important for us all to appreciate what happens when one gets cancer and how they need to be supported.

Throughout the month of October we shall be touching on the issue of hospice and palliative care which becomes crucial at some stage. It is key to note how people are affected by cancer; both those suffering from it but also their loved ones. Family and friends are deeply affected when they have to watch a loved one suffer or die.

Cancer, according to a Ministry of Health presentation made by Dr Milton Chemhuru to media practitioners recently; is the rapid creation of cells that go beyond their usual boundaries. Cells may invade adjoining parts of the body; which is refered to as metastasis.

Metastases are the major cause of death from cancer. Today; we cannot deny that people are dying; both old and young from the several types of cancers that we have.

What I would like to point out today which I picked from that presentation; which is important to note; is the link between HIV and Cancer.

There is a link between Cancer and HIV that cannot be ignored. In fact some of the cancers that are proving to be more lethal these days are linked to HIV.

There is therefore need to work on an integrated response when it comes to HIV and Cancer. According to the Ministry of Health and Child Care, there are some types of cancer that occur in people whose HIV would have progressed to AIDS. These cancers; are referred to as AIDS defining cancers.

Some of the cancers that fall into this bracket include Karposi Sarcoma, Cervical cancer, non- Hodgkin lymphoma. It is estimated that four to 10 percent of people living with HIV develop Non-Hodgkins Lyphoma.

Dr Chemhuru was quick to point out in his presentation though; that due to anti-HIV treatment, some cancers have become less frequent. He said due to the availability of antiretroviral therapy (ART) people living with HIV are now living longer and may develop other cancers not clearly linked to HIV; but due to old age. These include breast cancer, colorectal and prostate cancer.

What this clearly tells us is that there is a relationship between HIV and Cancer. In fact the increase in all forms of cancer today could also have a relation to the prevalence of HIV in our communities.

The more people we have living with HIV in the community; the more we will see some of these cancers cropping up.

It is therefore important that we educate each other as a community; as society of the realities of our lives.
We shall be touching on all these issues throughout the course of the month as we try not only to alert the community to the fact that non-communicable diseases (NCDs) including Cancer are a serious problem that we must be alive to.

Today what one eats and how they choose to live their life; has a bearing on the conditions that they may be exposed to. This is why many people now do not like processed foods. This is why many people today; exercise on a daily basis.

Anyway; today the cancer I am highlighting is Karposi Sarcoma. Karposi Sarcoma is a cancer that is caused by a virus known as the herpes virus. Karposi Sarcoma can be passed through saliva. Yes; saliva; and that got me shivering.

There are more men with this type of cancer than women in the country. Last year more than 2000 cases were recorded.

From these numbers; we can tell that cancer; and Karposi Sarcoma in particular; is a reality. We can also determine that while not everyone who succumbs to cancer; is infected with HIV; there is a link between HIV and cancer.

I note with encouragement the steps taken by National AIDS Council in conjunction with the Ministry of Health and Child Care to integrate the response to the two conditions. Just recently NAC hosted a fundraising golf tournament to raise funds for both HIV and Cancer. That is the direction we need to be going.

For a long time; AIDS was the leading cause of death in the country. There has been a shift however. With the increasing access and availability of ARVs; people living with HIV are living longer.

But non communicable diseases; including cancer pose an even bigger threat. What is worrisome with most cancers is that they are not treatable. Yes; efforts are made but most times people have to be managed so that they are comfortable and are not in pain by the time they die.

Chemotherapy is quite expensive in the country and cancer diagnosis is also not as good as it can be. This is the time to shine the light on all these issues and discuss them.

Let us talk about cancer as a society. It is high time we do so. HIV; yes; we know of and it is a reality but let us think of cancer too. In fact in HIV prevention we should now be talking of the importance of remaining HIV free as a way of living longer. For; without HIV; we also eliminate some of the infections and diseases that target people who are infected with HIV.

Let’s talk about these issues. Share your thoughts and comments on btonhodzayi@gmail.com

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