HIV- Human Immunodeficiency Virus targets the immune system that fights disease causing different types of life-threatening illness and infections called as AIDS. AIDS- Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is the advanced stage of HIV virus, which is defined by growth of infections, cancers and other clinical symptoms.
Over the years, developments have been made in the treatment, but AIDS have killed more than 39 million people worldwide. Even in the United States, the disease is affecting the young people at a shocking rate. The most affected region is Sub-Saharan Africa with over 24.7 million people living HIV virus in 2013.
World AIDS Day this year focuses on strategies to achieve an AIDS-free generation. World AIDS Day started in 1988 provides an opportunity to support the infected people by wearing a red ribbon, create awareness of safe sex and raise money for causes. WHO-World Health Organization will also present recommendations to fight disease, including anti-retroviral drugs advice for health workers, rape survivors, and sex workers.
Symptoms and Risk Factors
It takes few weeks to feel the symptoms of virus flu-like symptoms and it takes as long as 10 years to show more serious signs. Symptoms include chronic cough, headache, swollen glands, diarrhea, weight loss, lack of energy, frequent sweats and fevers, skin rashes, abdominal and pelvic cramps, yeast infection, sores of body parts, memory loss. People at the age of 50 or older may not identify HIV symptoms because they feel the signs as a part of aging.
There are millions of misconceptions on how HIV is spread but HIV is transmitted through three routes- exposure to the infected body tissues and fluids, sexual contact, and from mother to newly born baby during pregnancy, breastfeeding, or delivery. However, individuals cannot get infected through day-to-day contact like hugging, kissing, shaking hands, eating or sharing with infected person.
According to WHO, here are few factors that will put individuals at greater risk of developing HIV-
- having unprotected anal or vaginal sex;
- having another sexually transmitted infection such as syphilis, herpes, chlamydia, gonorrhoea, and bacterial vaginosis;
- sharing contaminated needles, syringes and other injecting equipment and drug solutions when injecting drugs;
- receiving unsafe injections, blood transfusions, medical procedures that involve unsterile cutting or piercing; and
- Experiencing accidental needle stick injuries, including among health workers.
How to Prevent AIDS/HIV
Treatment like antiretroviral therapy, sex education, and hospital safety will ensure less transformation of HIV virus. An antiretroviral treatment regimen lowers the chances of transmission. It reduces the amount of virus infected in person’s body fluids and thereby decreasing the spreading of AIDS-related disease. Body fluid known as “viral load” is the biggest risk factor in transmission of HIV. Treatment as prevention is used as prevention strategy to protect the HIV negative sexual partners.
Antiretroviral Therapy- is used in various ways to prevent the transmission of HIV. They are used on a large scale that will reduce the transmission rates worldwide.
Mother-to-child transmission- The HIV is transmitted from an HIV-infected mother to her unborn child during pregnancy, delivery, labor or breastfeeding is called mother-to-child transmission. HIV transmission rate is between 15-45% and it can be fully prevented if antiretroviral drug is given to pregnant mother throughout the stages when virus occurred. In 2013, around 67% pregnant mother infected with HIV virus is provided with ARVs to prevent any transmission to children.
Post exposure prophylaxis-If a person is exposed to HIV, antiretroviral drug is given to reduce the chances of infecting the virus. It is called post exposure prophylaxis used in both working and non-working settings. Health care personnel are given the treatment if they come in contact with an infected needle or have been exposed to virus through their work.
Pre-exposure prophylaxis-Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PrEP treatment is being researched, which involves providing medicine to people who are possible exposure to the virus, to prevent them from being infected. It is useful for serodiscordant heterosexual couples, wherein one partner is HIV-positive, gay sex, high-risk heterosexual couples, transgender women and health workers who inject drugs.
The United States proposed treatment for all people infected with HIV despite of CD4 count. Many countries like Zambia are now implementing TASP for couples.
Condom & Safer sex
Individual can reduce or eliminate the risk of HIV infection during sex through ABC prevention strategy- Absitence, Being Faithful, Condomise.
- Abstain from sex with unknown person
- Be faithful to one companion
- Condomise, which means use male or female condoms always before sex. Correct use of male and female condoms during anal or vaginal penetration can reduce the chances of sexually transmitted infections.
These three points is known as ABC prevention measure. However, there are issues related to the effective use of condoms, which makes ABC approach less successful. As such, male circumcision is also being promoted to reduce the risk of sexual transmission. Male circumcision when safely done by trained health workers, it reduces the risk of HIV infection in male by 60% approximately. Individuals or couples should test for HIV and STIs if they are exposed to any risk factors and learn necessary prevention information without delay.
Sex Education for Everyone
Sex education is the process of acquiring knowledge about sex, relationships, and sexual identity. It aims to protect people against sexual exploitation, abuse, young-age pregnancies, HIV and AIDS. Many people believe that sex education should be given to young people as a part of formal education to enhance their sexual knowledge behavior.
Few schools have no sex education on their syllabus. This is due to the broader political legislation in a country or sometimes the school itself. Academic consultants believe that pupils who are given sex knowledge at the young age will lead to sexual desire among them and will try it. On the contrary, sex education will reduce STD infection rates. Many countries support sex education in school to create awareness regarding AIDS epidemic including, Africa, India, Indonesia, Thailand, South Korea, France, Germany, and Sweden. In California, the teen birth rate has dropped by 60 percent due to proper sex education programs, according to Huffington Post.
In 2011, WHO adopted a “Global health sector strategy on HIV/AIDS for 2011-2015,” which outlines guide to control AIDS for countries-
- Optimize HIV prevention, diagnosis, treatment and care outcomes.
- Leverage broader health outcomes through HIV responses.
- Build strong and sustainable health systems.
- Address inequalities and advance human rights.
Leading to global efforts and effective increase of individual knowledge, the death due to AIDS is decreased from 2.3 million to 1.7 million in 2011. The death rate has decreased by 80% and there is an increase in life expectancy from 54 to 60 years in South Africa. As per the current guidelines on the use of antiretroviral drug from WHO will reduce HIV infections by 36% to 39% till 2025.