HIV (abbreviation for Human Immuno-Deficiency Virus) causes infection to the immune system, leading to impairment of this essential human function that fights disease and infection. AIDS (abbreviation for Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome) refers to advanced stages of HIV, and is a term jointly coined by US-CDCP (United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) and EuroHIV (European Centre for the Epidemiological Monitoring of AIDS). Opportunistic infections are those infections that happen because of weak immunity. When 20 or more such infections happen, it is considered as a case of AIDS.
Transmission and Spread of HIV/AIDS
HIV/AIDS can get transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood, as well as sharing contaminated needles or syringes. A mother can also transmit the disease to her new-born during pregnancy, childbirth or breast-feeding.
Time between acquiring the HIV virus and developing AIDS can significantly vary widely among people. In the worst case, if HIV is not treated at all, majority of infected patients develop HIV-related illnesses in a span of 5-10 years, but it can also be as long as 10–15 years or even longer. Further, ART (antiretroviral therapy) can slow the disease progression even more, as it decreases the viral load in the infected person.
Prevention and Treatment of HIV/AIDS
There is not known treatment of HIV/AIDS, till date. However, awareness of one’s HIV status still has advantages, as it gives the person an opportunity to take necessary steps towards accessing treatment, care and support, with the possibility of increasing longevity by multiple years. Additionally, this can also be helpful in preventing the spread of disease to others.
TB (Tuberculosis) is a common disease, leading to death amongst HIV-infected people. It is the primary cause of death amongst AIDS-infected patients in Africa, and is also a leading cause of death worldwide.
Male circumcision may reduce the risk of HIV but is not absolutely effective, and can actually increase the risk, if wounds have not healed properly. However, even if male circumcision cannot replace other effective HIV prevention strategies, it is worth considering.
Use of quality male and female condoms is the only assured way of preventing the spread of HIV/AIDS, as well as other STDs (sexually transmitted diseases). Further, a female condom is the only female-controlled contraceptive barrier method currently available.
Antiretroviral drugs are also used in HIV treatment and prevention, as they can stall or slow the spread of HIV, by decelerating further multiplication of the virus. As of 2008, about 4 million people (mostly in low- and middle-income countries) have been administered this drug.
AIDS awareness Initiatives
AIDS has been one of the most researched and talked about disease in recent years, with huge amounts or money and media coverage being given to it. Various AIDS awareness and care initiatives have started in many countries, at government, private and not-for-profit levels. The UN and WHO also have a special focus on the disease.