Fear cannot save you,
AIDS is the most serious public health challenge in the world at present. People who are infected by it know and live the devastation it causes to their lives. Talking about AIDS/HIV on just one day-World AIDS Day- out of 365 days a year isn't enough. It has to be mentioned frequently so as not to escape from the hard-hitting reality that we are facing a global epidemic.
AIDS results from the breakdown of the immune system in the human body due to the attack of Human Immuno deficiency Virus (HIV). The HIV attacks the Helper T-cells, the body becoming prone to various infections and diseases. In healthy circumstances, AIDS patients may live up to 3 years but not so in cases where the patient is unhealthy. One comes to know about HIV infection only after performing tests such as the ELISA test. Otherwise, one could be a carrier and not know about it for years altogether.
The world's first AIDS case was reported in 1980 in Georgia, USA. Luc. Montagmier discovered the AIDS virus in 1983 and called it Human Cell Leukemia Virus III, now known as HIV. This disease was at its peak in the 1980s and seems to be reemerging due to increasing sex and drug habits in America. In India, the first AIDS case was detected in 1986 in Chennai. In India, the mode of transmission has generally been heterosexual contact or drug use. STDs are rampant here, which increases the risk to the prostitutes.
The symptoms for this disease include fever, cough, diarrhea, skin infections, cancers, bacterial or fungal infections, herpes, ulcers, fatigue, weight loss, etc. It may take years to develop full-blown AIDS, having almost 100% fatality rate. Treatment can just prolong the incubation period. Multiple sexual relationships are a prime cause of spreading HIV/AIDS to others. People suffering from Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) are more prone to this infection. Transmission is also possible through contaminated needles/syringes during blood transfusion or drug injecting, Mother-To-Child Transfer (MTCT)-during or after birth and organ transplants. Also, homosexuality is on the rise and this puts young gay men in the high-risk group. This is mainly attributed to having multiple sex partners, prostitution, drug usage, homosexuality, etc. Children are also infected with this virus to a considerable extent. It is believed that most of the infected children are sexually abused, orphans or having prostitute mothers.
Having a look at the figures speaks of the alarming situation worldwide.
- AIDS affliction is mostly in the productive age group of 18-40.
- HIV infected people may take about 6 months to 12 years to develop full-blown AIDS.
- 80-90% of this virus is spread through the sexual route.
- It has been predicted by US Bureau of the Census that by 2010, the infant mortality rate will increase by 75% due to HIV infections. There is a 50% probability that an infected mother can give birth to an HIV/AIDS infected child who may survive for a few years only.
- Nearly 20 percent of all donated blood throughout the world is not tested for HIV infections.
- HIV infects about 15,000 people every day, half of them being children and youngsters.
- India has about 5 million HIV/AIDS cases and about 50,000 full-blown AIDS cases.
- About 30-40% of AIDS cases among the children in India are due to Mother To Child Transfer (MTCT).
- About 60% prostitutes in Mumbai (India) are infected by it.
- It is projected that India will have the largest number of HIV/AIDS infected people in the world, reaching about 20-25 million in 2010.
- About 5 million Americans have a high risk of getting AIDS. In the 1980s, the rate was 100,000 per year but now it has been recorded as 40,000 per year.
- HIV/AIDS has infected about 45-50 million people worldwide, mostly in African nations. About 19 million people have died due to it, nearly 6 million being children.
- UN reports that this deadly disease is threatening to kill almost 50% of the young population in African countries.
- 94% victims of AIDS/HIV belong to the Third World developing nations. In East Asia, there are about 1 million cases while South Asia has about 6 million cases.
- The projected cases of AIDS/HIV in China are 10 million according to a UN AIDS report.
These are all figures and words, which can never frame up or convey the complete human tragedy or misery. Despite certain restrictions and campaigns, many nations still face the problem of spreading AIDS in their society. The biggest impact of this disease is in Africa. In many areas, UNICEF has found the pattern of the spread of this disease in India similar to that of Africa. There is also a rise in female infections and MTCT as well. In Africa, women are more susceptible to suffer from HIV/AIDS due to certain social reasons. Eastern Europe is also infected to a significant extent. The rate is high among the soldiers. This disease can affect the economic and social life of many nations. There is a decline in the GDP as well as general economic growth rate of a nation. The repercussion is also in terms of decrease in life expectancy, as is the case in Africa where it has come down from 61 to 41 years. This can be disastrous for the social and economic set up of a country. Millions of sufferers are living under a guilt and stigma in some places. Besides coping with the physical pain associated with the disease, victims have to bear the emotional trauma as well. Many reports suggest that there is a lesser spread of AIDS in Muslim nations. This points out to the fact that religious teachings and practices are connected to the spread of such diseases.
AIDS is preventable but not curable. There is no cure for it and there is no guarantee that we will ever have one. The best thing would be to know AIDS for no AIDS. There are many health centers, societies and organizations dedicated to the spread of AIDS awareness and its prevention. There are some AIDS prevention and control societies, NGOs and voluntary organizations that provides care center for AIDS/HIV infected people. AIDS control programs have been initiated with the aid of World Bank. UN started a specialized agency for the fight against AIDS, UNAIDS. Global Fund is an independent organization working for the prevention and control of this disease. It finances the supply of drugs, etc. to the infected people. In October 1997, India started a HOTLINE on AIDS and received thousands of calls daily, pointing towards the gravity of this problem. By scaling up the prevention efforts worldwide, it is believed that we can save 28 million new infections (out of the projected 45 million) by the year 2010.
At a local and individual level, there are certain precautions to be taken by all. It is very important to test blood before transfusions. Insist on HIV-free blood for that. Use sterilized or disposable needles and equipment. The role of religion can be emphasized to inculcate the right values and lifestyle. Interest is to be shown by religious scholars, medical practitioners, and sociologists in resolving this problem. Young people may be educated about it but the problem lies mainly of the illiterates and adults. It is vital for infected people to be aware of their status and know how to avoid transmitting the virus to others. Every medium of communication should aim for spreading awareness about it. Education regarding reproductive health and sexual behavior is needed for the young masses to inculcate the right values and behavior among them. Affected people, beside medical care, need support and counseling. Misconceptions about this disease have to be removed- HIV/AIDS is not transmitted through casual body contact, sharing things, insect bites, etc. Coughing and sneezing does not spread the disease, neither is it transmitted by the usage of same toilets, telephones, utensils, clothes, etc. The medical profession has a major responsibility in this area.
AIDS is a disease that is specifically related to certain lifestyles and activities, which can be changed and avoided. It is very helpful to follow strict hygienic and sanitary habits to prevent this epidemic that has created havoc on a global level. The prevention of this fatal disease lies in control and restrain in the social and personal lifestyle.