The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates that around 34 million people in the world are living with HIV. There is no cure for AIDS once it develops. Modern medicine has not yet discovered any medicine that helps to combat the HIV virus that causes AIDS. It is a serious national, as well as personal and family health concern. For this reason, a comprehensive knowledge of the disease, its causes, symptoms, and prevention is important.
AIDS is an acronym for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that attacks and causes severe damage to the body’s immunesystem.
Although AIDS is primarily transmitted by having unprotected genital sex, it can also spread by having contact with infected blood, or by a mother to her unborn child, by breastfeeding or by sharing needle with an infected person.
There is no known cure for HIV/AIDS, but modern medicine through the early use of retroviral drugs, can radically delay the onset of its full progression.
The HIV infection has three main stages: acute infection, clinical latency, and full-blown AIDS.
As the immune system breaks down along with the progression of the disease, the affected individual becomes susceptible to life-threatening infections. Common bacteria, yeast, parasites, and viruses that usually do not cause serious diseases in people with healthy immune system can turn deadly for people with AIDS.
Without specialized treatment, people with HIV develop AIDS within 10 years. Among the most common AIDS-alerting symptoms, include a specific type of pneumonia called pneumocyctosis that affects 40% of AIDS patients and Kaposi’s sarcoma, a type of cancer characterized by lesions that appear on the upper body and face.
Other common AIDS symptoms include:
- Recurring respiratory tract infections
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Weight loss and
HIV is found in the blood, semen, and breastmilk of infected people. It is not spread easily like colds orflu and it cannot spread by saliva alone. The virus is transmitted through:
- Sexual contact
- Transfusion of contaminated blood
- Sharing of needles with people infected with HIV
- Shared blood circulation between an infected pregnant woman and her unborn baby and
The rapid rise in cases has been attributed by health officials to increasing number of young urban professionals, who easily engage in casual sex, after finding like-minded partners on social networking sites on the Internet.
There is a need for progressive HIV/AIDS information and awareness programs at the community level, as well as sexual education at the school level, to reduce high-risk behavior and practices. Individuals are advised to:
- Abstain from any casual sex,
- Practice safer sex by using condoms if one cannot abstain, and
- Avoid taking illicit drugs, sharing needles or syringes
Health workers are advised to avoid contact with blood and fluids by wearing protective clothing, masks, and goggles. The risk of mother-to-child transmission can be reduced if the infected mother uses anti-viral medications during and after the pregnancy. HIV-infected women are also advised to bottle feed their baby rather than breastfeed.