Know your status: AIDS is not a death sentence, understand all about it on World AIDS Day

Know your status: AIDS is not a death sentence, understand all about it on World AIDS Day

It’s not about about following the pink ribbon trend or the red ribbon walk- these campaigns are done to raise awareness, to eliminate and resolve mis-understandings of the disease. The ribbon is also a show of support for those living with HIV, which has affected 36.9 million people globally in 2017. 

Research and awareness campaigns have made people aware of its causes and risks and how it can damage the immune system without proper care.

All U.N. member states observe World Aids Day and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the World Aids Day .

This year’s theme has been demarcated as ‘Know your status’ and intends to promote everyone to undergo medical testing to discover if the virus exists in them and to put those diagnosed positive towards the right treatment and care.

As per data gathered by the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) in 2018, India after South Africa, and Nigeria has the world’s third largest HIV populations – an estimated 2.1 million people.

India currently has the second largest HIV treatment program in the world. And has witnessed a steep drop of 27 percent in cases of new infections and a drop of 56 percent in AIDS-related deaths in the country during this time.

What is HIV ?

A HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) infection is serious because the virus attacks a type of immune cell, (CD4+ cells) that protect the body from all kinds of diseases.

Bacterial infections can be eliminated by taking medicine that eliminates the bacteria’s cell wall, but unlike that a virus lives inside a human’s cells and thus is harder to eradicate. 

After an individual is infected with HIV, it doesn’t just destroy the infected CD4+ cells but also multiplies to infect more cells. Timely treatment can reduce the viral load in the body and thus help in preserving immunity of the body to a great extent.

AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), on the other hand, is the final stage of HIV and can be avoided altogether with the right treatment. During this time, the resistants to fight infections is low and the risk of developing disorders becomes higher.

Since HIV is a virus and AIDS is a medical condition . Hence, the symptoms of an HIV positive person and an AIDS victim are significantly different, and treatments can now reduce the progression of an HIV infection to AIDS almost entirely, with the right treatment regimen.

How does HIV/AIDS spread?

HIV can affect anyone. The HIV virus can be transmitted from an infected person to another not just from sex, but also contact with blood, semen, vaginal secretions, even breast milk from an infected mother.

HIV is a sexually transmitted infection and transmits through unprotected sex. Be it heterosexual or homosexual intercourse, anal or oral sex, there is a risk of transmission from an HIV-positive sexual partner that is not seeking treatment for his/her condition. Hence, a physical barrier like a condom or dental dam are commonly used to prevent or reduce the chances of transmitting the virus.

It is important to visit only authorised blood banks or hospitals for blood transfusions as those with infected blood person and reusing or sharing syringes for medical treatment or IV drug abuse are high-risk activities that can lead to HIV being transmitted.

HIV also spreads through perinatal infection that is from a mother to a child during pregnancy, delivery of the baby and breastfeeding.

Though the virus is also found in saliva, sweat, and tears the  rate of transfer from contact with these fluids is significantly low. So far there have been no reported cases of people contracting HIV from using the same toilet seats, shaking hands or sneezing.

Hugging, kissing and shaking hands are also gestures that people can continue to share without worrying about contracting or spreading HIV. 

There is also no threat in sharing a room, clothes or a cup of coffee with HIV-positive people.

Protection before cure

Since neither HIV, nor AIDS have a proper cure it is better to take precautions:

  • During sexual intercourse always use a condom every time. When using lubricant, make sure it’s water-based instead of oil-based. 
  • Reduce the number of sexual partners as contracting an STD can increase the risk of contracting HIV
  • Ensure needles used at tattoo parlours are handled only by professionals.
  • Ensure that any medical professional is using sterile needles while injecting a medication and or drawing blood.

Symptoms of HIV 

If a person contracts a HIV infection the initial symptoms can appear 2-12 weeks after transmission.

Some of the visible symptoms are 

  • Tiredness
  • Fever
  • Possible headache or diarrhea– resembling the flu.
  • Some also experience pain in the joints, get a skin rash
  • Night sweats or notice severe drop in weight
  • Swollen glands
  • Or yeast infections can be seen in the mouth or vagina.

HIV symptoms can be difficult to differentiate from a regular flu, or other viral ailments at first.

It is also possible an infection shows any visible symptoms at all.

Treatment

Pre-exposure Prophylaxis is an option for people in relationships with HIV-positive sexual partners.

If an infection is detected early, Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) can help an HIV positive individual live as long and as well as an unaffected person can. Though there is no cure for AIDS, ART can increase a person’s immune cell count considerably, slowing down the spread of the disease considerably.

Post-exposure prophylaxis (PrOP) is an emergency prevention pill, to help concerned HIV-negative sexual partners reduce their risk after sex with an HIV-positive person completely.

It is quintessential to get a HIV test done, as there are very limited ways a doctor can assess the risk from an HIV-positive individual that isn’t under treatment. 

Sexually-active people and their partners, should get a test done periodically in order to be safe and get treatment before it’s too late.

There is currently no shortcut or science to predict HIV risk accurately.

The Centre of Disease Control and Prevention states that anyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should once include this test as part of a routine checkup.

Having HIV is no longer a death sentence and every road doesn’t lead to AIDS, it can be prevented and the impact of the virus can be reduced over time.

Information is power in the case of an HIV infection