DR MARK PORTER, TV'S TOP GP, SOLVES YOUR HEALTH WORRIES; AIDS and HIV: What Is the Big Difference?

By Porter, Mark | Sunday Mirror (London, England), October 27, 1996 | Go to article overview

DR MARK PORTER, TV'S TOP GP, SOLVES YOUR HEALTH WORRIES; AIDS and HIV: What Is the Big Difference?


Porter, Mark, Sunday Mirror (London, England)


Could you explain the difference between being HIV positive and

having AIDS?

I know it might seem a silly question to ask given that AIDS has had so much publicity recently, but I am sure that there are an awful lot of people out there who do not understand what it is all about and are too embarrassed to show their ignorance by asking.

I Could not agree with you more. There is a lot written about AIDS these days but most of it assumes that the general public have a good basic understanding of the condition, which in my experience is far from true.

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the virus responsible for causing Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is spread through sexual intercourse, through blood and blood products, and from mum to baby through pregnancy, birth and breast feeding.

Once a person catches the virus they become what is known as HIV positive. The vast majority will have no idea they have the virus and their health will not suffer but they are infectious (they can pass the condition on).

Over many years the virus progressively weakens the immune system until it is no longer able to cope, leaving the infected person open to a wide range of infections and diseases that would not normally bother a healthy person.

This stage of the disease is known as AIDS - medication can help prolong life but, as yet, there is no cure and AIDS is fatal.

HIV positive people can live for many years before developing symptoms - it is predicted that as many as one in five will remain well up to 20 years after catching HIV.

Although more common in gays and drug addicts, AIDS has proved a problem in other groups too. Heterosexuals can catch it, and although they form a small minority of the 13,000 AIDS cases and 27,000 HIV positive people diagnosed in Britain since 1982 their numbers are growing.

For more advice and information contact the National AIDS Helpline on 0800 567123. All calls are free and confidential.

MY four-year-old son has just been diagnosed as having asthma. Most of his symptoms occur at night and our GP thinks he may be allergic to the house dust mite. I have heard that there are special types of bedding available that can prevent this mite causing problems.

THE house dust mite is a small insect that lives in all our soft furnishings and feeds off bits of dead human skin.

Every house has them and they are not a sign of poor hygiene.

Eight out of 10 asthmatics are allergic to the mites' microscopic droppings, which are easily inhaled deep into the lungs where they cause inflammation and narrowing of the airways leading to the classic symptoms of asthma, namely cough, wheeze and breathlessness.

The bed, pillow and duvet are the mites' favourite home.

You can reduce their numbers by regularly vacuuming the mattress (with a vacuum cleaner that has a microscopic filter to trap the droppings), and washing the duvet and pillows at high temperature at least once a month.

Remove all unnecessary soft furnishings from your son's bedroom and go for a short pile synthetic carpet rather than a lush wool one. You can get mattress, pillow and duvet covers which hold the droppings in and they are very effective. Like all things you get what you pay for and some are better than others.

Whichever type you choose, make sure it covers the mattress, pillow or duvet completely - ones with vents or splits in the side are a waste of time.

For more advice and information on these types of covers and how to control the mite in your home send a large s.a.e. to The National Asthma Campaign, Providence House, Providence Place, London N1 0NT.

EVERY winter I suffer from terrible chilblains on my feet. Is there anything I can do to prevent them?

CHILBLAINS are painful or itchy sores caused by a combination of cold and pressure from badly-fitting clothing or shoes. …

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DR MARK PORTER, TV'S TOP GP, SOLVES YOUR HEALTH WORRIES; AIDS and HIV: What Is the Big Difference?
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