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The Impact and Consequences of AIDS/HIV in India
The Impact and Consequences of AIDS/HIV in India
“Whenever AIDS won, stigma, shame, distrust, discrimination and apathy were on its side. Whenever AIDS has been defeated, it has been through trust, openness, dialogue between individuals and communities, family support, human solidarity, and human perseverance to find new paths and solutions .” – Michel Sidibé, Executive Director, UNAIDS
What are AIDS and HIV?
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is caused by a virus called HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The disease changes the immune system, making people very vulnerable to infections and diseases. This vulnerability worsens as the syndrome progresses, sometimes with fatal results.
HIV is a virus: In particular, HIV is the virus that attacks T-cells (CD-4 cells) in the immune system.
AIDS is a medical condition: AIDS is the syndrome, which appears in an advanced stage of HIV infection.
HIV infection can cause AIDS to develop, but it is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. However, without treatment, HIV infection can progress and eventually develop into AIDS in most cases. Once the AIDS diagnosis is made, it will always be a part of the patient’s medical history.
What causes HIV and AIDS?
A retrovirus that infects vital organs and cells of the human immune system, HIV develops in the absence of antiretroviral therapy (ART) – a drug therapy that slows, and can prevent, the growth of new HIV viruses.
The rate of progression of the virus in different individuals is very different, depending on several factors including:
- Years old
- The body’s ability to defend itself against HIV
- Access to health care
- Other infections that the patient may have
- The genetic inheritance of the person
- Resistance to some strains of HIV
- Other factors
How is HIV transmitted?
Sexual transmission: Contact with infected sexual fluids (rectal, genital or oral mucous membranes) while having unprotected sex with someone infected with HIV.
Perinatal transmission: A mother can transmit the infection to her child during childbirth, pregnancy and breastfeeding.
Blood transfusion: The transmission of HIV through blood transfusion is extremely low in developed countries, thanks to meticulous screening and precautions. This is often not the case in the developing world
The first symptoms of HIV infection
Many people with HIV have no symptoms for months, or even years, after becoming infected. Others may develop flu-like symptoms, usually two to six weeks after being infected with the virus. Symptoms of early HIV infection may include fever, chills, joint pain, muscle aches, sore throat, sweats (especially at night), enlarged glands, red rash, fatigue, general weakness and loss of weight
Myths and facts about HIV and AIDS
There are many misconceptions about HIV and AIDS that are not based on scientific and medical facts. The virus cannot be transmitted by:
- shaking hands
- casual kiss
- touching the skin uninterrupted
- using the same toilet
- share towels
- share cutlery
- mouth-to-mouth resuscitation or other forms of “casual contact”
Is there treatment for AIDS and HIV?
Currently, there is no vaccine or cure for HIV, but some treatments have evolved that are much more effective and better tolerated – improving the overall health and quality of life of patients considerably – by taking just one pill a day .
Certain treatments can slow the course of the condition, allowing most infected people the opportunity to live a long and relatively healthy life. Starting HIV antiretroviral treatment early is crucial. According to the guidelines of the World Health Organization, issued in June 2013, early treatment improves the quality of life, extends life expectancy and reduces the risk of transmission.
How can HIV be prevented?
To prevent being infected with HIV, medical professionals recommend taking the following precautions:
Avoid the dangers of unprotected sex: Having sex without a condom can put a person at risk of being infected with HIV and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs).
Drug abuse and needle sharing: Intravenous drug use is an important factor in the transmission of HIV, especially in developed countries. Needle sharing can expose users to HIV and other viruses, such as hepatitis C.
Exposure to body fluid: Exposure to HIV can be prevented by taking precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminated blood. Health workers must use barriers (gloves, masks, protective glasses, shields and clothing).
Pregnancy: Some treatments can harm the unborn child. To protect the health of the child, cesarean delivery may be necessary. HIV-infected mothers should not breastfeed.
The importance of education: This is an important factor in the reduction of risky behavior that results in HIV / AIDS.
Social stigma associated with AIDS
The fear that surrounded the growing HIV epidemic in the 1980s still persists today. At the time, since very little was known about HIV and how it was transmitted, the disease scared people because of their fear of being infected.
This fear, to this day, means that many people still believe that HIV and AIDS:
- It always ends in death
- The association of syndromes with behaviors that a large number of people still disapprove of – such as homosexuality, drug use, sex work or infidelity.
- That the syndrome is transmitted through sex, which is a taboo subject in some cultures
- The infection is due to personal irresponsibility or moral faults that deserve to be punished
- False information about how the virus is transmitted, which gives rise to irrational behavior and misconceptions about personal risk
What is the level of awareness about AIDS in India?
According to a comprehensive study conducted by the UNDP after 2005, “HIV and AIDS are a serious challenge for the developing and even developed world. India, with an estimated 5.206 million people living with HIV in 2005, accounts for nearly 69 percent of HIV infections in the South and Southeast Asia region. This is despite being a low prevalence country with an overall adult HIV prevalence rate of 0.91 percent.”
“India has six high-prevalence states: Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Manipur and Nagaland. Of these, Andhra Pradesh recorded the highest prevalence of two percent among antenatal clinic participants and 22.8 percent among STD clinic participants in 2005. The overall low prevalence of HIV, so far the focus has been on studying the impact of AIDS/HIV at the level of the individual and and families“, underlines the survey.
In conclusion, we quote studies carried out by the World Bank Group in 2012, “The Government of India estimates that approximately 2.40 million Indians are living with HIV (1.93–3.04 million) with an adult prevalence of 0.31% (2009). Children (<15 years) account for 3.5% of all infections, while 83% are in the 15-49 age group. Of all HIV infections, 39% (930,000) are among women. India's highly heterogeneous epidemic is largely concentrated in just a few states—in the industrialized south and west, and in the northeast. The four high prevalence states of South India (Andhra Pradesh - 500,000, Maharashtra - 420,000, Karnataka - 250,000, Tamil Nadu - 150,000) account for 55% of all HIV infections in the country. West Bengal, Gujarat, Bihar and Uttar Pradesh are estimated to have over 100,000 PLHA each and together account for another 22% of HIV infections in India.“
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