Archive for the ‘HIV’ Category.


Sometimes, for some people, depression is too severe or it lasts too long. Severe, persistent depression is often best treated with medication. Talk to a doctor. If medication taken for another condition is causing depression, the doctor can change the drug or lower the dose. If the depression is part of dementia, the doctor will prescribe medications that ease the symptoms. Most of the persistent depression in people with HIV infection, however, is simply the natural reaction to knowledge of a devastating disease. Like the depression that accompanies the loss of a loved one or a diagnosis of cancer, it can be successfully treated with appropriate support and medications. In this case, the doctor will recommend a psychiatrist, who can prescribe medication that restores sleep, appetite, and mood. For most people, treatment of depression is temporary but critical.     Either the doctor or the psychiatrist might recommend professional psychological help. Psychiatrists, psychologists, and social workers can help you talk through whatever is blocking the healing process, though only psychiatrists are trained medically and can prescribe medications. Psychotherapy may concentrate on the overwhelming problems people must face and feel they cannot solve: How can I face rejection? How can I deal with anger? How can I feel less guilty? How can I have sex without hurting myself or anyone else? Why me? Why now? What will I do with the rest of my life? What will happen to my kids? My parents? The people I love? Will I die? How will I die? Am I a good person? By helping you confront problems you feel are unsolvable and find new perspectives on those problems, a psychotherapist will help you take control of your life. He or she will help you deny, not the fact of your infection, but your own helplessness and hopelessness in the face of it.     Thoughts of suicide are usually only temporary: the suicide rate among people with HIV infection is low. People seem to consider suicide mostly as a means of regaining a feeling of control over their lives. They seem to be saying, “This disease does not control whether I live or die, I do.” Nevertheless, if thoughts about suicide persist, and if thoughts of taking pills become plans to collect specific pills, and if these persistent, concrete thoughts are coupled with an increase in guilt and sense of punishment, then get help. Call your doctor or psychotherapist.


The origins of human suffering have always been more infectious than has been supposed. By all indications this generalization still holds true. Like other advancements in science, this new understanding of disease has the potential both for damaging and for enhancing the quality of human life. The recognition that pathogens are prone to evolutionary change raises the question of what good or ill human society will make of this new knowledge.
First, it is important to remember that the newly recognized realms of infection are populated by chronic diseases and that the weaknesses of biological weapons are compounded as one moves from the acute to the chronic. Imagine how impotent a biological weapon would be if, like HTLV-1, it caused cancers in only one out of twenty-five infected individuals and did so sixty years after the targets were infected.
The shortcomings of biological weapons go a long way toward reducing the threat of their use, but they do not go all the way. The dangers must still be identified and guarded against to reduce the threat. If anyone could get away with conducting large-scale lethal experiments on humans to generate a vicious biological weapon, the new information would indeed be very dangerous. But with safeguards against such possibilities, the pros far outweigh the cons. To protect against the abuse of this new knowledge, we must make sure that such safeguards are in place, even if it means the abrogation of the sovereignty of any government that would dare to conduct experiments on humans that are designed to enhance virulence.
The world is not as safe as it could be, but it seems safe enough to make good use of the new biological knowledge. To take full advantage of the health benefits arising from the emerging understanding of the evolution of virulence, we need to adjust our environments to do the opposite of what a terrorist would do. We need to selectively disfavor transmission of harmful strains.
One of the greatest difficulties encountered by traditional approaches to controlling disease for good or ill is the flexibility of some pathogens. This flexibility is a difficulty for us if we are fighting against it—when, for example, we use antimalarials to try to suppress the versatile agents of malaria. But the flexibility of an infectious organism can also be a part of the solution to disease control.