World AIDS day is commemorated on 1st December each year to increase the awareness about the issues surrounding the HIV/AIDS, to aware the community about the prevention of AIDS and to take the action to reduce the transmission of this horrific disease. The theme for World AIDS Day 2016 is “Access Equity Rights Now”.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). HIV is a virus which does not replicate or reproduce outside the body. They become active for their function and reproduction inside the body of the host. Normally, the immune system kills harmful microorganisms but in this condition the HIV affects the immune system and the body becomes susceptible to various infections or diseases. If this virus is left untreated in the body, it would take around 10 years for a person with HIV to develop the AIDS.
The bacteria, yeast, and the other parasites that normally do not cause disease in healthy individuals can cause extreme conditions in AIDS patients. HIV can be present in the tears, saliva, nervous system tissue, spinal fluid, blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk.
HIV can be transmitted through sexual contacts such as oral, anal or vaginal sex. It also can be spread through blood transfusions and needle sharing. A pregnant lady can also transmit the virus to her fetus via blood circulation or a nursing mother through her breast milk. HIV is not spread by the casual contacts such as hugging, mosquitoes, participating in sports or the items touched by the infected people. There are some misunderstandings in our society about the patients affected with HIV. People even think not to sit, talk or eat with such patients because they are afraid of the transmission of the HIV virus. These are just false rumors, in actual there is no transmission of this virus through casual contacts. In addition, AIDS cannot be transmitted to the blood donor or the person who donates the organ, because the donor is not in direct contact with the receiver. In all the procedures, sterile needles and clean equipment’s are used.
Who are at Increased Risk of Infection?
People who inject the drugs by sharing the needles (IDUs), the infants of infected mother who did not receive the HIV therapy during the pregnancy, people who received the blood transfusions or clotting products between 1977 and 1985, health care workers and people who are involved in extra sex relations, both with male and female are at high risk of infection. The chance of acquiring HIV from male to male sex partner is even higher.
Symptoms of HIV
People with HIV can live without symptoms for about 10 years or longer duration (silent infection phase). But they can easily transmit the infections during this symptom free period. During active infection, immune system damages and the patients become susceptible to the opportunistic infections. The common symptoms include:
• Weight loss
• Swollen Lymph glands
In the beginning, many people show no symptoms but some may have flu like symptoms with fever, rash, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. Some patients show symptoms when they develop AIDS. It is very important to do screening especially of high risk groups so the spread of infection could be reduced.
There is no treatment of AIDS at this time. Many therapies and medicines can control the symptoms and improves the quality and span of the life.The replication of the HIV is suppressed by the antiretroviral therapy. A combination of antiretroviral drugs called highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) is useful in reducing the particles of HIV in the bloodstream. Antiviral medications are also recommended in the management of AIDS. There is no vaccine for HIV yet due to high mutations in the genome of virus.
Prevention of AIDS:
There are several tips for preventing AIDS. Few are mentioned here:
• Do not share the syringes and stop the use of illicit drugs.
• The person with AIDS can transmit the virus to the others so he cannot donate blood, organ, plasma etc.
• Avoid the sexual contact with the infected person.
• HIV Positive pregnant women should consult the doctor or the concerned person about her health and know the methods to prevent her baby from becoming infected.
• Nursing mother should avoid giving the breast milk to her baby to avoid the transfer of HIV.
• Avoid extramarital relations
Scenario in Pakistan
Globally around 35 million people are currently suffering from AIDS. In 1981, first case of the disease was reported and up-till now more than 25 million people have lost their lives due to AIDS. In Asian countries, the prevalence of HIV is comparatively less. First case of HIV in Pakistan was reported in Lahore in 1987. In the year 2002, about 1913 patients were reported who were suffering from this disease, which increased to 85,000 till 2005. In 2005-2006, 9% of the observed drug addicts who used to take drugs through injections were found to have HIV positive reports, this ratio increased to 15.8% in 2006-2007 whereas in 2007-2008 it was exceeded to 20% in Pakistan. In 2009, 97,400 cases were estimated and 6,000 new cases were reported in 2010. The most basic mode of AIDS transmission in Pakistan is heterosexuality which is 52.55% while through contaminated blood and blood products it is estimated to be 11.73 %. According to current estimate, 106,000 people have been infected with HIV in Pakistan but there is no population based study so far. There is need to have a representative population based study so the exact number of patient could be known along with risk factors. According to reports 994 new cases of HIV were reported in Sindh Province of Pakistan in 2014 so government is making an effort to establish 5 new diagnostic and treatment centres at Jinnah Postgraduate Medical Centre and Abbasi Shaheed Hospital in Karachi; Liaquat Medical University Hospital Hyderabad, and Civil Hospitals of Benazirabad and Sukkur districts.
National Academy of Young Scientists (NAYS), Pakistan recently conducted a survey about AIDS awareness and according to results majority of people knew about AIDS, but they were unaware about nature of disease, mode of transmission (https://www.researchgate.net/publication/304027160_HIV_awareness_in_Pakistan_A_survey-based_study?ev=prf_pub). NAYS Pakistan also wants to launch a mega screening project “Screen Pakistan” for HBV, HCV and HIV soon. In addition, an awareness booklet about HIV will be produced next year, In shaa Allah.
NAYS Pakistan is working to spread awareness about HIV in Pakistan along with other diseases. Please join hands with us to celebrate World AIDS day so we could spread the awareness at massive level.
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