World AIDS Day: 5 Facts About HIV And AIDS
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The HIV virus was discovered by scientists for the first time in the year of 1983, when some doctors residing in Los Angeles and New York discovered rare types of pneumonia and cancer in gay patients, they were treating.In India, the contagion was first found amongst female sex workers from Chennai, in the year 1986. Since the discovery of the virus, numerous people across the globe have been affected. According to the World Health Organisation (WHO), more than 70 million people have been infected with the HIV virus and about 35 million people have died of HIV. Reports suggest that approximately 36.9 million people worldwide, were living with HIV/AIDS in 2017.
In order to show support to those suffering from the disease, the first of December was declared as World AIDS Day in the year 1988. This year marks the 30th anniversary of this initiative. During the course of these 30 years, a lot has been achieved, but a lot is still to be done.
Millions of people suffering from HIV still don’t have access to proper treatment. Many people aren’t even well informed about factors related to the disease and this has resulted in the disease becoming a taboo. Basic awareness about AIDS is required to break the taboo around the disease and to contribute to UNAIDS initiative of ending the AIDS epidemic by 2030.
So, here are the 5 facts that you must know about AIDS:
1. Difference between HIV and AIDS
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Many people till date don’t know the difference between HIV and AIDS. They associate the same risk factors with both the conditions, even when both the conditions are different. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an infectious virus that goes after the cells in the immune system, which defend the body against various ailments.
The virus destroys a certain type of white blood cell in the immune system known as the T-helper cell or CD4 cell, and duplicates itself inside these cells. This eventually weakens a person’s immune system and this invites multiple diseases. However, people with HIV today, if treated properly, can live long and healthy lives.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) on the other hand, comprises of a set of symptoms or diseases caused by HIV. A person with AIDS has an immune system which is not strong enough to fight off even a mild infection, and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV, when the infection is extremely advanced, and if left untreated, will lead to death.
2. Number of HIV and AIDS cases on decline
Reports suggest that the number of registrations of new HIV cases in India have dropped from 1,20,000 in 2010 to 88,000 in 2017. The number of AIDS related deaths has also dropped considerably. The number has gone down considerably from 1, 60,000 in 2010 to 69,000 in 2017. These numbers clearly show the success of collective prevention and treatment efforts at national, state and local levels. However, the aim now is to completely eradicate the problem and that’s why it is essential to focus more on the treatment
3. Life span of a person with HIV can be normal
There is no particular cure for a person who has been diagnosed with HIV. However, with treatment options like antiretroviral therapy, it is possible for patients to lead long and healthy lives. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a therapy that compromises of a cocktail of Antiretroviral (ARV) drugs that subdue the HIV virus and stop the progression of HIV disease.
Huge reductions have been seen in rates of death and infections, when use is made of a potent ARV regimen. However, it is essential to begin this treatment in the earlier stages, for standing a better chance at recovery. Professionals suggest starting the therapy after diagnosis, irrespective of the CD4 and viral load.
4. Identification of opportunistic infections, before starting antiretroviral therapy (ART)
Some diseases that occur in people with HIV escalate the urgency to start ART. These diseases comprise of a HIV-related kidney disease and certain opportunistic infections. Opportunistic infections are infections that take place more often or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems, such as people with HIV.
Coinfection is when a person has two or more infections at the same time. Coinfection with HIV and certain other infections like Hepatitis B, Hepatitis C and Syphilis, increase the urgency to start ART.
5. HIV patients can be organ donors to HIV positive patients
Introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapy and the effective management of opportunistic infections have reduced mortality rates. Thanks to the treatment, HIV/AIDS is not as life-threatening, as it used to be. Since the development of treatment, there have been successful transplants to HIV-positive recipients from HIV donors.
Dr Vasant Nagvekar is ‘Infectious Disease Specialist’ at Global Hospitals, Mumbai.