HIV and AIDS – these two words are used together all the time but few people really know how they are related. You always see the ads on TV and posts about HIV in your Facebook feed. But why do people pay so much attention to its discussion, why is HIV so dangerous?
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the virus that causes acquired immune deficiency syndrome (AIDS). It targets the immune system and weakens the people’s defence system against infections. No effective cure for HIV currently exists, so to protect yourself, you should know the main issues about HIV and AIDS.
How Many People Are Living with HIV?
About 37 million people around the globe live with HIV, and only 54% of people with HIV know about their infection. Due to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Sub-Saharan Africa suffers most of HIV/AIDS in the world, and estimates for 65% of all recent infections. Other the most affected regions include the Asia, Latin America, Eastern Europe, and the Caribbean.
About 1.2 million of people are living with HIV in the United States, but just 13%
of those people know they are infected. Over 100,000 people in Britain have the HIV virus. And each year, about 1.3 million people catch HIV (good news: this figure has gone down slightly).
Where Did HIV Come From?
Scientists believe that the source of HIV infection is the type of chimpanzee in West Africa. They think that the chimpanzee version of virus was transmitted to humans and mutated when people hunted for meat and contacted with the infected blood. Over decades, the virus spread worldwide. We know that HIV has existed in the USA since the late 1970s.
How Is the HIV Virus Spread?
You can get HIV through the high-risk activities when you contact with the infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids. The virus is spread:
- By having sexual contact with the person that has HIV.
- By sharing syringes and other injecting equipment with someone who is infected.
- By using body piercing and tattooing equipment that is infected with virus and not sterilized.
- From an infected mother to her baby and by breastfeeding.
- By receiving organs, tissue, blood from an infected donor.
HIV CANNOT Be Spread By:
- Shaking hands
- Kissing and hugging
- Giving blood and plasma
- Using toilet seats and swimming pools
- Sharing bedding
- Using public rest rooms
- Mosquitoes and other insects
Signs and Symptoms of HIV Infection
The symptoms vary depending on the stage of infection. During the first weeks the individual may not have any symptoms or experience just a headache, fever and sore throat. When the infection progresses and weakens the immune system, a person can have other signs, such as weight loss, diarrhea, ear infections, and cough. Without timely treatment they can cause severe illnesses like tuberculosis, pneumonia, memory loss, neurological disorders. At this stage the person is said to ‘have AIDS.’
Prevention Is Your Best Weapon
Education and communication are the keys to protecting yourself from the HIV virus. Accurate information of health risks and ways to prevent the infection is the main ‘social vaccine’ against HIV. There is a growing number of organizations worldwide that educate societies about HIV/AIDS, launch programs at schools and colleges, open training centers, and provide support.
For instance, sex education is compulsory in all secondary schools in England and Wales. In India, there are different programs aimed at sex education at schools, as well as advertising and public education. Most cities and even small villages have AIDS clinics that provide information and help.
Education and training centers in Europe, Africa, Asia, North America organize classes at schools to tell students the most important information about HIV and AIDS, including the risks, first signs, ways of transmission and prevention. Programs include lectures, debates, story-telling, watching educational videos and films.
What are the best ways to avoid infection?
- Educate yourself and others about the HIV and AIDS.
- Don’t have unprotected sexual intercourse, always use condoms.
- Avoid using recreational drugs that are injected with a syringe. Never share needles and syringes with others.
- When making tattoos or piercing, make sure all the equipment is sterile.
Remember that HIV is a preventable disease. You can protect yourself against it by following the basic rules. But you shouldn’t panic if you or your friend is HIV positive. Although there is no cure for HIV, treatments are very effective now, and they let people with HIV live long and happy lives. There are medications that allow the immune system to repair itself and stop the further damage. Moreover, scientists are trying hard to create the vaccine that will prevent people against the infection. Who knows, maybe tomorrow we’ll wake up and hear the wonderful news: effective preventative HIV vaccine is developed!
Be optimistic, healthy and happy!