The deadly human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) produces Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) a combination of infections and diseases caused by a general breakdownn of the immune system. It was unknown about 15 years ago and the first case in India was reported in May, 1986. Now it has infected millions worldwide. In India HIV is spreading rapidly. It is especially alarming in a country with a population of 900 milion and having many other major illnesses, deficient nutritional states, poverty, polluted water and air as well as weak health care delivery system. India has remarkable potential for the transmission of HIV. AIDS in India is characterized by the grim fact that “all the patterns of HIV transmission are present here”.
AIDS high-risk groups comprised of truck and bus drivers, professional blood donors, prostitutes and intravenous drug users, although anyone can be effected. Maharashtra, Tamil Nadu, Delhi and Manipur are among the most effected regions of the country.
How is HIV spread?
HIV is transmitted through :-
- sexual contact with an infected person involving the exchange of semen, blood or vaginal fluids
- transfusion of contaminated blood, and blood products
- transmission from infected mothers to their children before or during birth and during breast-feeding
- unsterile injecting equipment and sharing of needles and syringes, especially among injecting drug users.
HIV is not spread through coughing, sneezing, sharing of eating or drinking utensils, shaking hands, or being near an infected person. HIV is not spread though everyday activities, such as working in an office, eating in a cafeteria, or using public toilet facilities. Unlike colds or the flu, HIV is not spread through the air.
How do you know if you have HIV/AIDS ?
Most people infected with HIV have no symptoms at all initially. They may look and feel healthy. Consequently, they may be unaware that they have the virus. This status can last an average of 7-10 years.
Almost all having HIV infection eventually develop AIDS. Some people infected with HIV develop persistent symptoms which includefatigue, weight loss, diarrhea, fever, chills, night sweats and swollen glands. However these symptoms can also be symptoms of many other illnesses.
Only an HIV antibody test ELISA TEST (enzyme-linked immunosorbant assay) followed by a confirmatory test WESTERN BLOT performed by a qualified doctor/nurse or laboratory technician can make the diagnosis of HIV/AIDS. This facility is available in all major hospitals and laboratories alongwith counseling for those testing HIV positive.
What can you do to protect yourself ?
There is no cure and no vaccine for AIDS. HIV infection can be prevented or one’s risk reduced :
- by practicing safer sex such as being faithful to your partner, limiting the number of sexual partners and using a condom for each act of sexual intercourse
- by ensuring the sterilizaton of all needles, syringes, and other skin cutting instruments
- by screening all blood and blood products for the presence of HIV
- by treating all sexually transmitted diseases, as these increase the likelihood of transmission.
Everyone infected with HIV remains infectious for his or her entire life and can pass the virus onto others through semen, blood or vaginal secretions.
Living positively with HIV & AIDS
If someone is tested positive, it is not the end of the world.The news of your infection probably shocked you and made you angry. Feeling upset, frightened, depressed and confused is natural, but you do not have to face this alone; there are understanding people ready to help you. There is no vaccine for HIV or cure for AIDS. However, there are many new and promising forms of treatment for people infected with HIV and for those sick with AIDS.
It is important to understand that you may, like many people infected with HIV, look and feel healthy for years and can lead a normal life by making simple changes in your behavior patterns. During this period, you can pass the virus on to others by having unprotected sex, by sharing needles, by donating blood and organs, and through pregnancy or during childbirth to your unborn baby, so avoid these behaviors.
Live a normal life and maintain good health :
Incorporate these healthy behaviors even if you have HIV infection :-
- Try to eat a healthy diet.
- Take light exercise regularly.
- Get enough rest and avoid stress.
- Practice any familiar technique of yoga or meditation to help you relax.
- It’s best to stop drinking, smoking or using drugs as they may hamper your body’s immune system.
- Continue with your work.
You may seek more information from Government or Non-Governmental Organizations, Hospitals or AIDS Control Cells of State or Central Government.