Not long back were HIV patients treated as untouchables. People hesitated to talk, laugh or be in the presence of HIV-affected people fearing communication of the disease. But thanks to various awareness programs and days such as the World AIDS Day that has proved all of this wrong and helped people with AIDS lead better lives.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that can leave a person with acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) for a lifetime. Its unlike certain other viruses that leave the body with progressive treatment. Here, a person remains affected by AIDS for life once you get HIV. The virus reduces the number of CD4 cells (these cells help the immune system fight off infection) thereby leaving an individual vulnerable to other infections and diseases as well. Read more about our body’s immune system and how its functioning affects us at www.firsteatright.com.
AIDS is the last stage of HIV and people living with it are at a greater risk of diseases such as cancer too. AIDS-affected patients survive on medications every single day of life but by taking these survival rates of these people are equivalent to the survival rates of other individuals (when diagnosed during early stages of the disease).
A person can be infected with HIV for years before it becomes AIDS. The infection occurs through blood, semen or vaginal secretions. These secretions enter the body via vaginal/oral sex, blood transfusions, shared needles/syringes and from a pregnant/breast-feeding mother to her child. One must also clearly understand that HIV doesn’t spread through hugging, kissing, dancing or a handshake and neither can it spread via air or water.
Though different symptoms exist the only reliable way to confirm the disease is to get it tested. The disease progresses through four different stages of which AIDS is the last stage. Common symptoms during the initial stages include fatigue, fever, weight loss, diarrhea, shingles and swollen lymph nodes. AIDS leaves a person’s immune system damaged badly and the common signs at this stage include weight loss, skin rash, chronic diarrhea, recurrent fever, continuous fatigue or persist white spots on the tongue.
Although AIDS has no cure nor is there a vaccine for HIV it is possible to protect yourself by taking certain precautionary measures:
Humanity has come a long way since 1988 when the campaign was first initiated by WHO and this year marks the 30th anniversary of the World AIDS day. Still, we have a longer road to travel as there are more than 1 million individuals who die from HIV because many of them don’t realize that they have the virus, seek treatment very late or don’t seek treatment at all. Above all, there are around 36.7 million people living with HIV worldwide making these figures the highest till date of which a quarter of them are ignorant that they have the virus.
The theme for this year is ‘Know your status’ and it seems to fit the bill perfectly as many people are still hesitant to take up a HIV test. Most do it only after falling sick and showing symptoms. WHO hopes to encourage people to test for HIV and motivate those with HIV to seek treatment. Its good to know that three of four people with HIV know that they have the disease, but they still don’t know how to protect themselves. Even the discrimination and stigma surrounding the disease remain a reality till date. World AIDS day provides the perfect platform to improve monetary funds, raise awareness and fight discrimination.
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Dietitian & Nutritionist Dr. Nafeesa Imteyaz.