AIDS or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome is the advanced stage of HIV. The Human Immunodeficiency Virus(HIV) damages the immune system and interferes with the body’s ability to fight the organisms that cause disease.
HIV is predominantly a sexually transmitted infection (STI) but it can also be transmitted through sharing of injecting equipment such as syringes and contaminated blood transfusions.
Without diagnosis, it may take a few years before HIV weakens the immune system to the point that it becomes AIDS. With the right diagnosis and medication, and cautious attitude, one can continue to live a long life with HIV.
Most people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within a month or two after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary or acute HIV infection, may last for a few weeks. Possible signs and symptoms include:
- Muscle aches and joint pain
- Sore throat and painful mouth sores
- Swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck
- Weight Loss
It is very important to have a diagnosis as early as possible to prevent HIV from translating into AIDS.
Transmission of HIV
There is another mode of transmission apart from the commonly known methods.
Infected mothers can pass the virus to their babies, through the shared blood during pregnancy, delivery and via breast milk. HIV-positive mothers who are receiving treatment for HIV during pregnancy can significantly lower the risk of transmission to their babies.
Myths about HIV :
There are many myths about HIV. Some people wrongly believe that HIV can be spread through the air. HIV can’t be spread by touching toilet seats or from mosquito bites either. No one catch HIV or AIDS by hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands with someone who has the infection.
How mothers and children can be protected from AIDS :
- All women who are pregnant or planning to have a child should get tested for HIV early—before pregnancy, if possible, and during every pregnancy.
- Pregnant women with HIV should continue their treatment even during pregnancy. HIV medication prevents the virus from multiplying, which reduces the risk of mother-to-child transmission of HIV during pregnancy and childbirth.
- Transfer of HIV medication through the placenta protects the baby from HIV infection, especially during a vaginal delivery when the baby passes through the birth canal.
- In some situations, a woman with HIV may have a scheduled cesarean delivery to prevent mother-to-child transmission of HIV during delivery.
- Babies born to women with HIV receive HIV medicines for 4 to 6 weeks after birth. The HIV medicines reduce the risk of infection from any HIV that may have entered a baby’s body during childbirth.
- Because HIV can be transmitted in breast milk, women with HIV should not breastfeed their babies. Baby formula is a safe and healthy alternative to breast milk in such situations.
HIV infected children
Children infected with the HIV have to endure a significant adverse impact on their neurodevelopment and cognitive functioning. A study, published recently in the online journal NeuroImage Clinical, reveals that HIV-infected children have lower neuropsychological test scores thus reflecting reduced memory span, attention deficit and decreased visual-motor coordination among other conditions.
The key to achieving overall growth in HIV infected children is a good diet, 100% medicine compliance and regular physical activity. Many doctors suggest that larger studies with bigger sample size highlight the need for a holistic approach to HIV programmes.
The emphasis should not only be on medication, but also nutritional, psychological and neurodevelopmental support.
Conclusively, we must learn and educate ourselves, our peers and children about HIV/AIDS just the way we might with other infections and viruses. The first step towards that is to stop treating the topic of HIV/AIDS as taboo and accepting it as just a health condition.
Every year, 1st December is an opportunity for people across the world to unite against HIV, to show support for people living with HIV, and to commemorate those who succumbed to an AIDS-related illness. Founded in 1988 by the WHO, World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day.