I have seen many people and my friends who are having very little or negligible knowledge about AIDS. Hope this article will provide us with some basic and useful information about AIDS.
What is AIDS?
The HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus that ultimately causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome). Soon after first getting the HIV infection the person has a short, self limiting flue-like disease. This only lasts a few days and is so mild that many persons do not even know it. The virus slowly destroys the ability of the body to resist common communicable diseases. When the resistance of the body is so reduced that infections can no longer be resisted, the person is said to have AIDS.
AIDS is a serious illness caused by infection with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). HIV breaks down the body's immune system, so the person with AIDS can no longer fight off disease successfully. As a result, secondary infections, cancers can more easily take root in the body.
It takes from 6 weeks to several months for the body to form sufficient antibodies (proteins produced in response to infection to show a positive test). When these antibodies can be detected in the blood, the patient is said to be HIV-positive. AIDS is a much later stage when the ability to fight off serious infections is lost.
How does it spread
HIV is spread by unprotected penetrative sexual contact with an infected person. It can also be acquired when infected blood enters the persons’ blood by sharing needles or the transfusion of infected blood and organ transplants. Infection can also be transmitted from an infected mother to her child in the uterus, during delivery or while breastfeeding.
The virus is also found in smaller amounts in tears, saliva, brain, spinal fluid and urine although contact with these bodily fluids is not likely to transmit the virus. Casual contact such as by shaking hands, social kisses, touching an infected person, touching something that the person has handled, using public toilets or telephones, or using swimming pools does NOT spread HIV. The available information also bears out that HIV is not spread by mosquito or other insect bites.
The symptoms of AIDS are the symptoms of the diseases that attack the body because of a weakened immune system. One should never, therefore, attempt to diagnose HIV infection on the basis of symptom or signs only. Patients with HIV/AIDS may present with a variety of manifestations which includes:
* Fever, sweats, chills
* Loss of appetite, weight loss
* Nausea, vomiting
* Sore throat
* Shortness of breath
* Body rash
* Skin problems
It is important to always keep in mind that all the above symptoms are non-specific and commonly occur in a variety of conditions. To establish a diagnosis of HIV/AIDS a blood test that has been confirmed is essential. A physical examination and other tests are necessary to rule out other illnesses.
HIV Infection Test
The commonest test used is the ELISA (Enzyme-Linked Immuno-Sorbent Assay) test. The result of a single ELISA (or Rapid / Spot tests) should never be taken to indicate infection but merely as an indication for repeated tests to confirm the result. Most of the blood tests used to detect HIV infection work by detecting the presence of HIV antibodies. It may take up to 3 to even 6 months for someone to develop adequate antibodies after exposure to the virus. Keep in mind that early in infection there may not be sufficient antibodies present in the blood to give a positive reaction even though the person has HIV infection. This period is known as the “Window Period” and is dangerous as though the person has a negative test, infection can be spread through sex or blood. A confirmed positive test indicates that the person has been exposed to the virus and has developed antibodies but may not necessarily progress to full-blown AIDS.
Who is at high Risk
* Men and women with more than one partner who have oral, anal, or vaginal sex without a condom
* Sexual partners of people who are infected
* People who receive regular blood transfusions
* Babies born to infected mothers
* People who share needles (for IV drugs or tattooing etc) and their sexual partners
* People who receive injections with recycled disposable syringes or needles
* Prostitutes and their sex partners
How to avoid HIV Infection
The best way of self-protection is to learn as much as possible about HIV infection. Risk can be substantially reduced by the followings:
* Use latex condoms correctly and consistently. Keep in mind that condoms offer protection but risk is not totally eliminated by using condoms
* Do not share needles and syringes for injecting drugs, preferably avoid intravenous drug abuse
* Ensure the use of single use disposable needles and syringes for injection
* Insist on sterile disposable syringes and needles for injections
* Never use a paid blood donor
* Get all sexually transmitted infections treated by a qualified doctor as soon as possible, also get your partner checked/treated
* Do not visit prostitutes
At this time, there is no cure or vaccination that will prevent HIV infection, though a lot of research is being done for a vaccine. Anyone engaging in high-risk behaviour should contact a physician to arrange for a complete physical examination and blood tests.
Also friends in my view if we explain the details and awareness of AIDS to at least one of our family members and one of our friends we can help avoid the infection.
Labels: Health is Wealth