Understanding Herpes Zoster (Kisipi): A Simple Overview


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Kisipi is a Luganda word for shingles, derived from its belt-like appearance (omusipi) on the body. It is a viral infection that causes a painful rash and is spread by the varicella-zoster virus, the same virus that causes chickenpox. After a person has chickenpox, the virus remains dormant in the body and can reactivate years later.

It is also one of the earliest signs that one may have contracted HIV, and it comes just days after you have contracted the virus.

According to Dr. Kenneth Katumwa , a medical Doctor at AAR HealthCare, anyone can get shingles, regardless of their HIV status; however, if one gets such a rush two days after having unprotected sex, one should get Post-exposure Prophylaxis for HIV (PEP) because PEP still stops HIV if taken before the end of three days after having sexual intercourse.

“It should be noted that Kisipi does not alert everyone. It’s only those that have had chicken pox before. Secondly, HIV, though the commonest trigger in Africa, is not the only trigger that brings kisipi or shringles,” Dr. Katumwa noted.

Dr. Kenneth added that even though Kisipi is a skin rash and a disease, it may also be an alert sign.

“The abstinence, be careful, correct and consistent, Condom use (ABC) approach must remain the best way to stop HIV. Don’t wait for Kisipi to manifest,” he advised.

There is no cure for shingles, but there are treatments that can help to relieve the symptoms. These treatments include antiviral medications, pain relievers, and steroids.

Here are some tips to help prevent shingles:

Get vaccinated against chickenpox. This will help to prevent you from getting chickenpox, which can lead to shingles later in life.

Have a healthy lifestyle. This includes eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and getting enough sleep.

Manage stress. Stress can weaken your immune system, which can increase your risk of shingles.

If you have HIV/AIDS, take your medications as prescribed. This will help to keep your immune system strong and reduce your risk of shingles.

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