“You can’t get AIDS from a hug or a handshake or a meal with a friend.” – Magic Johnson
World AIDS Day takes place on the 1st December each year. World over, people unite to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS, support people who are living with HIV/AIDS and pay homage to those who have died from AIDS related illness. Red ribbon is the universal symbol of awareness and support for people living with HIV.
After the first identification of a new clinical entity called Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) in 1981 by the U.S.Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and first identification of HIV infection in India in 1986, the world, India specifically have come a long way in tackling this disease.
AIDS is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). It targets the infected person’s immune system. As a results, the person’s defense systems become weak and is prone to develop infections and some cancers.
Human immunodeficiency virus infection will eventually lead to AIDS. After HIV infection, it can take from 2 to 15 yrs for AIDS to develop. AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection and is defined by development of infections, certain cancers and other severe clinical manifestations.
HIV is transmitted from one infected person to another through
- Penetrative sexual acts, both heterosexual and homosexual
- Mother to child
- Through a contaminated blood transfusion
- Sharing of needles and syringes
Few statistics about transmission..
- Unprotected sex (87 % heterosexual) is the major route of HIV transmission.
- Transmission from Parent to Child (5%)
- Unknown cause (3.0%)
- Injection Drug abuse (2%)
- Behavior of Men having sex with men (2%)
- Blood and Blood products (1%)
Being diagnosed with AIDS was once considered as a death sentence. Now a person diagnosed with HIV infection has a life expectancy of general population, provided treatment is started early after the diagnosis.
The HIV/AIDS epidemic in India began in 1986-1987 with the detection of the first HIV infection in Chennai and the first AIDS Case in Mumbai. Since then the HIV epidemic has spread to rural and urban areas, infecting high-risk groups as well as the general population.
An HIV diagnosis is commonly made through serological assays to detect HIV specific antibodies or by detection of Virus or viral products.
Since 2007, when the number of AIDS related deaths started to show a declining trend, the annual number of AIDS related deaths has declined by 54%. In 2015 an estimated 67.6 (46.4 –106.0) thousand people died of AIDS-related causes nationally.
This decline is consistent with the increased detection rate, increased awareness in people about HIV/AIDS infection, rapid expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) in the country. It is estimated that the scale-up of free ART since 2004 has saved cumulatively around 4.5 lakhs lives in India until 2014.
Some facts about HIV infection
- There is no cure for HIV infection.
- HIV is a chronic disease, that requires lifelong treatment.
- People who are at high risk of acquiring HIV infection should get regular HIV testing.
- All pregnant women are screened for HIV in their initial visit to the doctor.
- Mother to Child transmission can be prevented provided the pregnant woman is given Antiretroviral Therapy and the child is given medicine in the newborn period.
- Currently if ART is started on time, it is possible for people with HIV to have the same life expectancy as general population.
- If Antiretroviral treatment is not taken as advised, the risk of developing drug resistance to ART drugs increases both to the person and in society.
- If an HIV-positive person adheres to an effective ART regimen, the risk of transmitting the virus to their uninfected sexual partner can be reduced by 96%. Safe sexual practices need to be followed like using condoms regardless.
- Breast feeding can be done by HIV infected mother after consulting the doctor, provided she is on Antiretroviral Treatment.
- The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO), a division of Ministry of Health and Family Welfare, Government of India initiated free antiretroviral treatment in April 2004. Since that time, it expanded its services and centers all over India.
- Testing for HIV infection is widely available now in both public and private settings.
For the list of testing centres, One can refer here.
By following the below mentioned measures we can prevent the spread of HIV infection and continue our journey towards AIDS free nation and AIDS free world as pledged by Sustainable Development Goals.
HIV infection does not have Cure. Transmission of HIV infection is primarily the result of risk behaviors. So the focus should be on understanding and preventing these.
Safe sexual practices
HIV infected persons need to make sure their partners are not at risk for contracting HIV infection. This can be done by using safe sexual practices like using condoms.
Staying away from injection drug abuse and not sharing needles will prevent HIV transmission.
Preventing mother to child transmission can be achieved by detecting HIV in women and initiating treatment and pregnancy planning in HIV infected persons.
Safe blood transfusions
This can be achieved by screening of blood for HIV before making it available in all blood banks throughout the nation (following strict protocols).
You cannot get AIDS by
- Hand shake
- Sharing utensils
- Living in the same household
- Closed mouth kissing
Intensified detection of HIV infection, ART treatment for people living with HIV Infection, and prevention through risk reduction programmes will continue to play a pivotal role in HIV prevention and control.
– Dr.Lavanya Aribandi, Chief Medical Officer, eKincare