Many AIDS control programs have been designed to address the concerns, needs of people across strata of the society. Indeed, much has been done , yet much needs to be done.The basic most important aspect that has been addressed through all these intervention programs is raising awareness about HIV/AIDS.
Multipronged strategies have been adopted to raise awareness at various levels viz. community, youth, adolescents, school level intervention etc.In most parts of the world it has been incorporated in the school curriculum so as to raise awareness among youth and enable them to lead life which is free of fear, misconception and any kind of sexual health risk.
What Is HIV/AIDS?
HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus which can lead to Acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. Therefore, it is important to note that HIV is the cause and AIDS is the consequence. The two types of HIV virus that have been recognized are HIV 1 and HIV 2.unless otherwise diagnosed most infections are by HIV 1. HIV 1 functions by destroying the CD4+Tcells, which are crucial for the immune system of the body.
They are the cells which are responsible for fighting diseases and as these cells are destroyed, the body is defenseless and is susceptible to multitude of infections that do not go away. HIV-2 has been reported in west African nations first and is differentiated from HIV -1 on the basis of the severity of the infection. HIV-2 causes immunodeficiency at a slower pace compared to HIV-1.Those with HIV-2 are also less infectious initially but later the infection culminates into AIDS, albeit at a slower pace.
Some of the West African nations having HIV-2 infection in more than 1% in the general population are Ivory Coast, Gambia, Mali, Mauritania, Nigeria, Ghana, Guinea, Liberia, Niger, Angola and Mozambique .
What Are The Symptoms?
Symptoms are not uniform for HIV infection. While some people develop flu like symptoms on getting this infection that lasts for some 2-3 weeks, many do not exhibit any symptoms at all. But one must know that even if there are no symptoms the body is getting destroyed from within.
So once tested positive, with symptoms or without symptoms one must see the healthcare provider without fail at regular intervals. Untreated early HIV infection may lead to many diseases that including cardiovascular disease, kidney, liver malfunction, and cancer.
HIV infection eventually culminates into AIDS at a later stage. This is the stage where the person’s immunity system is damaged and is rendered unable to fight infections and cancer. This is the terminal stage of this infection.
However, the progress to AIDS from HIV can be delayed to a great extent, even by decades, by the usage of combined medication as a part of timely intervention. The advanced medication that has been developed can prolong the life span of an HIV infected person.
How HIV Spreads?
HIV infection is primarily a sexually transmitted disease. Having unprotected sex with a partner having HIV can result in HIV infection. As it is absolutely impossible to know if somebody has HIV infection from the face, it is always advisable to use Condom each time, when having sex. It not only prevents you from HIV but also from other STI’s .
Men having sex with Men are also immensely prone to the disease if they indulge in unprotected sex. In case of sexual transmission, unprotected anal sex is much more riskier than unprotected vaginal sex. There is lot of apprehension regarding unprotected oral sex as to if it also entails the risk of contracting HIV/AIDS. The answer is ‘YES’, it is also a risk behavior however, the risk is less than that of anal and vaginal sex.
Men and women who have multiple sex partners are very much at risk of contracting this infection. Sharing needles, syringes constitute the second most common means of transmission after the sexual route. Those who inject drugs are often found sharing the syringes or needles resulting in contracting the deadly HIV.
Also, in developing countries where health care facilities and related hygiene measures are poor, one syringe is used for multiple patients resulting in the transmission of the virus. During blood transfusion or organ transplant, there is a fear of transmitting the virus if the blood is not properly tested. However, at the present moment, rigorous safety measures are being implemented by all governments in order to reign in the epidemic.
Another question often asked by people is if a positive pregnant woman can pass on the virus to the baby. The answer is again “YES’ as the baby can contract the virus during pregnancy, during birth or by means of breast feeding. There have been cases in Africa where infcants contacted the disease by means of non-sterilized needles and passed on the infection to the mother by way of breastfeeding.
If deep kissing or French kissing could be a possible mode of transmission, is another question that is asked often. The answer is again ‘YES’ though the possibilities are extremely remote. It can be transmitted if the HIV positive person’s gums or any part of the mouth is bleeding and during the deep kissing as there is exchange of salive , one could contaminate.
Also, there is a chance of getting the infection when contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids happen.
How It Does Not Spread?
Treating the HIV infected people as lesser individuals is no solution. The discrimination with further aggravate the people. It is important to know they can live active social life with some care. Casual contacts like sharing food in one dish, shaking hand, giving a hug or a social closed mouth kiss will not result in HIV infection. HIV is not air or water borne so sharing a room or public place as that of a HIV infected person does not include any risk. Insects like mosquitoes are not the carriers of this virus.
With timely medication, a HIV positive person can live quite a positive life. There is a need to sensitize and destigmatize the disease so that those affected can live with their head held high.