Korea’s first AIDS patient still alive after 26 years

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Korea’s first AIDS patient still alive after 26 years


The first Koreans diagnosed with HIV in the 1980s - one male and one female - are still alive, according to the Korea Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

On Sunday, the KCDC reported that a 54-year-old man identified as “A” is the first Korean male to be officially diagnosed as HIV-positive. A was presumed to have been infected while staying abroad and was diagnosed when he tried to donate blood in Korea in 1985. A has never been hospitalized and may have had a less lethal strain of the virus.

“At first, A thought he would die of the virus,” said an official at the hospital the patient regularly visits. But especially after antiretroviral treatments were developed in the 1990s, he was told that he could survive through treatment.

“He began taking pills and follows every instructions from his doctor,” the official said.

According to the official, A is currently “taking computer and cooking classes to get a job” and has been “exercising regularly so that his health is better than the average Korean male.”

AIDS is now considered a chronic disease, rather than a fatal disease, following developments of advanced treatments, such as the multidrug “cocktail,” which became standard treatments for the thousands of people infected with HIV.

“Just like patients with hypertension or diabetes, who have to take pills for all their lives, AIDS has become one of the chronic diseases,” said Kwon Jun-wook, director of the division of communicable disease control at the KCDC. He added that there are four types of treatment for HIV and AIDS today, and 30 different types of medicines.

Kwon cited the example of Los Angeles Lakers legend Magic Johnson, who was diagnosed with HIV in 1991, but has fought the disease for 20 years and is living a healthy life. Johnson acts as a national spokesman on HIV issues.

“AIDS began to be considered a chronic disease since four or five years ago,” said an internal medicine doctor at a hospital in Seoul. “The average life span for AIDS patients is similar to patients with diabetes.”

The death toll of AIDS patients has also reached a plateau in Korea, according to health authorities.

According to KCDC, the number of AIDS fatalities increased through 2004, when 114 people died of the disease, but the figure has gone down to 130 to 140 patients a year since 2005.

The number of newly discovered HIV cases has remained at about 700 patients a year since 2006.

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the cumulative number of AIDS diagnoses in 40 states and five U.S. dependent areas since 1981 to 2009 was 1.14 million, and among them 583,298 died.

In Korea, a total of 7,656 people were infected by the virus since 1985 and 1,364 died.

Guaranteeing the anonymity of AIDS patients during treatment as well as the government covering all medical expenses has contributed to a lower toll. The first Korean female diagnosed with HIV is a 59-year-old identified as “B.” She was diagnosed in 1988 and currently lives with a son in his late 20s, who was born before she was infected. This year marks the 30th anniversary of the discovery of AIDS. To mark the anniversary, the 10th International Congress on AIDS in Asia and the Pacific (ICAAP10) is scheduled to take place from Friday to Aug. 31 at the BEXCO convention center in Busan under the title “Diverse voices, United Action.”

The congress will be attended by about 4,000 people from 70 countries, including officials from international organizations, nongovernmental organizations, politicians as well as health authorities.

VIPs attending the event include Epeli Nailatikau, the president of Fiji; Michel Sidibe, executive director of the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS; UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s special envoy Nafis Sadik; and Shin Young-soo, regional director of World Health Organization Western Pacific.

By Shin Sung-sik [sharon@joongang.co.kr]

한글 관련 기사 [중앙일보]

국내 에이즈 1호, 26년간 살아 있다

약 잘 먹고 건강관리 잘 해
감염 7656명 중 82% 생존

1980년대 국내에서 발견된 한국인 1호 남녀 에이즈(후천성면역결핍증) 환자가 생존하고 있는 것으로 확인됐다.

 21일 질병관리본부와 의료계에 따르면 국내 공식 1호 에이즈 감염자는 남성 A씨(55)로 85년 감염됐다. 국내에서 헌혈을 하던 중 외국에서 감염됐다는 사실을 알게 된 그는 치료약을 복용하며 건강을 관리해 일반인처럼 건강하게 살고 있다.

88년 성(性)접촉으로 감염된 여성 1호 환자 B씨(60)도 건강이 좋은 편이다. A씨가 다니는 병원 관계자는 “환자가 한 번도 거르지 않고 약을 먹고 있다”며 “지금처럼 건강을 관리하면 기대수명만큼 살 수 있을 것”이라고 말했다. 에이즈는 25년 동안 7656명의 한국인이 감염됐으나 6292(82%)명이 생존해 있다.
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