Scientists say that the initial clinical trials for a new tuberculosis (TB) vaccine are now scheduled for completion in South Africa by early next year. Dr. Hassan Mohomed said the results will help scientists understand the world epidemic and develop key strategies that will reduce and eliminate the devastating effects of TB.

TB and pneumonia are the two largest killers of those with HIV due to the lowered resistance to the diseases. Clearly, healthcare education is one of the most important components in the treatment, maintenance and prevention of TB, pneumonia and HIV. The most common questions include:

What is tuberculosis?

What is pneumonia?

Is it related to HIV/AIDS?

Tuberculosis is a highly contagious infection caused by the bacteria. Diagnosis may be made by skin test, which if positive should be followed by a chest X-ray to determine the status (active or dormant) of the infection. Tuberculosis is more common in people with immune system problems, such as HIV. Treatment involves a course of antibiotics and vitamins that lasts about six months.

Although there are millions of new cases of TB each year, not everyone that is exposed to the bacteria becomes infected nor does everybody infected with it develop clinical symptoms. The importance of these findings is that lifestyle factors will improve one’s natural resistance and immunity.

Pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) is a serious infection that causes inflammation and fluid buildup in the lungs. It is caused by a fungus. It is likely spread through the air, this fungus is very common. A healthy immune system can easily destroy it. However, it causes a lethal type of pneumonia in people with weakened immune systems, such as those with HIV. It is now estimated that 33 million people are now living with HIV.

Before HIV medication was available, PCP occurred in 70%-80% percent of HIV-positive people. The number of cases has decreased a great deal. This is due to antiretroviral therapy.

Symptoms of PCP

At first, PCP may cause no symptoms. Call your doctor right away if you have any of these signs or symptoms of PCP. It can be fatal.

* Fever
* Mild and dry cough or wheezing
* Shortness of breath, especially with activity
* Rapid breathing
* Fatigue
* Major weight loss

Diagnosing PCP

PCP can be diagnosed with the help of medical tests. These may include:

* Chest X-ray
* Special lab tests examining discharge from the lungs and airways
* Blood tests including evaluation for decreased oxygen levels

Five ways to maintain your strength when you are HIV-positive

1. Eat more and different kinds of foods and drink plenty of fluids
2. Practice good food hygiene
3. Make food a social activity
4. Maintain a healthy lifestyle
5. Treat symptoms that can prevent you from eating

Eat more and different kinds of foods and drink plenty of fluids

Eat three meals a day and regular snacks in between to maintain your strength and keep a healthy weight. Always eat different types of food, especially fruits and vegetables. Fruits and vegetables provide an excellent source of energy and they also help build your immune system.

Reduce or eliminate sugars. Sugars have been shown to reduce your immune response. Eating enough proteins is one of the most important recommendations. Proteins such as lentils, beef, chicken, fish and eggs are perfect to help keep your weight up.

Drink at least eight glasses of boiled or treated water. Avoid soft drinks and packaged juices, as they can reduce your appetite and contain high amounts of sugar.

When you don’t feel hungry, eat small amounts of food 5-6 times a day. If you don’t have mouth sores, use mild spices for better taste. Food helps you keep you strong against HIV/AIDS.

Good food hygiene

Good food hygiene is very important to reducing your exposure to secondary infections. One of the most common causes is improper storage, poor food preparation and dirty hands, which can lead to diarrhea and vomiting. Vomiting and diarrhea will reduce your energy, vitamin and mineral absorption. Here are 5 easy tips to reduce your risk:

· Wash your hands with soap and water before eating and preparing food.
· Wash your fruits and vegetables with boiled or treated water before cooking or eating them.
· Keep food and water covered and stored away from insects, flies, and rodents.
· Clean food preparation area and utensils with soap and water after every meal and cooking session.
· Avoid raw meat and eggs, spoiled or moldy foods, and juice made from unboiled water.

HIV patients may have diarrhea due to secondary infections in the gastrointestinal tract, as a side effect of medication or because the virus has infected the bowel directly. Preventing water-borne disease is essential to maintaining your strength.

Make food a social activity

Eat together with friends and family, this will encourage you to eat more and maintain a regular schedule. Family and friends can help prepare and clean-up, especially when you are sick. Create a garden or raise small livestock with family, friends or neighbors. It is very common to eat less because you are depressed or stressed. It is important to spend time with family, friends or talk to a spiritual leader.

Maintain a healthy lifestyle

Walk, exercise or even doing gardening can improve blood circulation, stimulate appetite, reduce fat, and maintain healthy muscle tone. Stop completely or significantly reduce your consumption of alcohol and cigarettes. Alcohol reduces your appetite and makes anti-HIV drugs less effective. Avoid coffee and tea when you are out with friends, instead drink water.

Treat symptoms that can prevent you from eating

HIV patients are subject to fungal infections of the mouth and throat. If you have mouth sores, clean at least twice daily with cotton and slightly salted warm water. Sores can cause oral discomfort and difficulty in swallowing. Patients can cope with these symptoms by choosing foods with a soft, moist consistency, such as scrambled eggs, creamy soups, ground meats and stewed fruits. Eliminate spicy foods and foods with a high acidity, such as tomatoes, lemons and oranges. Have your weight monitored regularly.

HIV patients can experience nausea and vomiting as a side effect of some medications. If you're feeling nauseous, substitute cold, bland foods for hot meals. Hot foods create more odor than cold foods, which can trigger nausea.

This column has been selected to improve healthcare education throughout regions of Africa by the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation.


Author's Bio: 

Cory Couillard is an international healthcare speaker and writer for numerous newspapers, magazines, websites and publications around the world. In 2011 he received a prestigious Humanitarian Award for his tireless work while living in Africa. He communicates to millions of people weekly.