AIDS | Lowdown | A Lowdown on AIDS Virus Alert | AIDS Virus Alert
This is something you have more control over than an unexpected terrorist attack. HIV AIDS – an infectious disease which causes progressive decline in the body’s immune system making it incapable of fighting common infections. This results in life threatening illnesses as well as death. Be aware – HIV AIDS is the most severe infectious disease epidemic of the modern era.
BE SAFE: How HIV AIDS is transmitted
* Unprotected sex – Use a condom and be faithful. Don’t spread the virus consciously.
* Transfusion of infected blood and blood products – All pregnant women must be checked for HIVAIDS and must avoid breast feeding (antiretroviral medicines are a good call during this period).
* Infected needles – Make sure your injection needles are properly sterilized before usage. And also, that the needle is disposed in sealed containers after use. In case of accidental exposure, preventive antiretroviral drugs can be taken for specified weeks to avoid transmission.
* Be careful while getting tattoos too. Don’t trust just about anyone. Be safe.
HIV is not transmitted by casual contact like shaking hands, hugging, kissing, sharing clothes, food, utensils, mosquitoes and flies etc. There is absolutely no reason to isolate and segregate people with HIV.
Signs and Symptoms of HIV
30 to 50 percent patients develop acute retroviral illness, two to four weeks after getting the infection. Fever, muscular pain, sore throat, enlargement of lymph glands, rash and/or neurological symptoms are the first signs of illness (these usually improve by two to three weeks and there are no symptoms for the next seven to eight years). If not treated, symptoms of HIV AIDS like fever, weight loss, glandular enlargement, oral ulcers and skin rashes, fungal infections of mouth, food pipe, recurrent pneumonia and uro-genital infection occur in future. As HIV AIDS advances, more serious infections like toxoplasmosis of brain, disseminated tuberculosis and different types of cancers and neurological diseases occur. The most common associated infection with HIV is tuberculosis – TB which could be pulmonary (in the lungs) or extra pulmonary (outside lungs). If not treated, death occurs in 10 years. Treatment of HIV by using antiretroviral drugs keeps a close check on the progression of infection and disease.
Any person with the risk of having HIV infection should have a blood test called HIV ELISA. The test usually becomes positive in four to six weeks of acquiring the infection and remains positive subsequently. Pre test counseling and post test counseling is a must to all undergoing the test. Chances are, the test may be falsely positive or negative, and therefore should be repeated two or three times before the diagnosis is confirmed. Early diagnosis can be made by PCR test in certain cases. HIV ELISA test is a must for individuals with symptoms of HIV AIDS and STD, pregnant women and TB patients.
There is an increasing awareness about premarital testing of HIV.
All patients should undergo a full physical examination regularly, along with lab tests like blood counts, liver functions, kidney functions, chest X ray and hepatitis B. Baseline CD4 count and viral load testing should be done and treatment should be started in all symptomatic and symptomless patients with a CD4 count of less than 350 cells/ cu.mm (normal count is 500-1500 cells).
Anti Retroviral Therapy (ART) has completely changed the course of illness and an invariable fatal disease has been tamed to become a chronic manageable infection. Numerous antiretroviral drugs are now available and are used in combination of three to four agents to effectively stop viral replication and reversal, and bring improvement in disease. Virus becomes undetectable in blood at the end of six months to one year in most cases.
Treatment is lifelong and the patient’s full compliance and adherence to treatment is of utmost importance to prevent failure of therapy. Most drugs interact with others, so precautions should be taken when co administration of multiple drugs is involved. Side effects need to be monitored and need prompt management. This requires proper training and expertise – and it comes with experience, with time. Associated diseases like TB, pneumonia and other opportunistic conditions also have to be managed, and most of the time, need to be stabilized before starting antiretroviral therapy.
Proper nutrition, immunization, lifestyle and stress management go a long way in improving the quality of life of HIV patients who are now expected to have a fuller life span on proper antiretroviral therapy.
Till date, no preventive vaccine is available, in spite of a great deal of research in this field. A positive attitude towards life, support from family and friends, condemnation and discouragement of discrimination by society at large of people having HIV/AIDS are the need of the hour. Strict laws are required to protect and preserve the dignity and self respect of all concerned.
* Worldwide estimation of people living with HIV AIDS – 33 million
* Worldwide death rate due to HIV AIDS -25 million
* Indians living with HIV AIDS – 2.4 million, and the rate is rising
* Incidence is highest among sex workers and their clients, homosexuals, injected drug users and truck drivers.
* Factors responsible for AIDS are lack of awareness, gender inequality, mobility and migration of people, and high rates of Sexually Transmitted Disease (STDs).