Tuberculosis sounds like a disease of the past, a vague disease that 18th century poets got, but it is indeed a disease of the present. When I moved to California right before 4th grade, I had to get a skin test for tuberculosis (TB) for school. My skin test was positive! They asked me if I had been around people who were coughing, which seemed like an absurd question because people are always randomly coughing. That being said, there are locations where someone coughing are more likely to be someone with TB. Perhaps I was exposed on a recent trip to Sri Lanka. Or perhaps just in line at the grocery store. It’s hard to tell but it’s worth being aware of risk factors. According to the New Jersey Medical School Global Tuberculosis Institute, many countries in Asia (not Japan), Latin America, Africa, and the Caribbean have high incidence of TB. Also, in America, homeless shelters, migrant farm camps, prisons/jails, and some nursing homes can have high risk as well. Having HIV or using tobacco can make people more susceptible to death from TB. You can find out more about risk factors on the World Health Organization website.
If you ask most people of South Asian descent (especially those with immigrant parents), you’ll hear that sex was not a casual topic. Many of my friends, myself in included, with this background hardy got any sexual education at home. I was “lucky” enough to be told the general purpose of a condom – birth control – and that a Plan B pill does exist. What I didn’t learn about until later was that condoms also protect against sexually transmitted disease.
This month’s post will focus on HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus). In brief, this virus exists in high (contagious) concentrations in blood, semen, vaginal fluids, rectal fluids, and breast milk. If HIV is allowed to develop without treatment, the person who has it can get AIDS, a stage of the infection in which the person cannot resist many infections and some cancers. This is not a disease that gets casually transmitted. It’s quite easy to protect yourself against getting HIV, but with low education and awareness, the risk increases. Also, if people don’t know their status, they cannot take measures to protect themselves against HIV by seeking antiretroviral treatment (ART) or other therapies.