Facts about HIV and AIDS
Based on the Government of India’s estimates, in 2009, there were 2.40 million Indians in total suffering from HIV, with 3.5% of these being children below 15 years of age, 83% being young people between 15 and 49 years of age, and 39% (around 930,000) being women. The highest density of HIV-infected population was found in Andhra Pradesh in the south, with 500,000 affected, followed by Maharashtra with 420,000 and Gujarat, Bihar, Uttar Pradesh, and West Bengal with 100,000 people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHA). The good news is that there is a record decline of 43% in annual new infections (ANI) with an average of 72% decline from 2010–2021 in states namely Himachal Pradesh, Tamil Nadu, and Telangana. The highest decline in AIDS-related deaths (ARD) is in Chandigarh, Telangana, and West Bengal, thanks to an awareness programme to irradicate the spread by educating the masses on how it spreads and how to protect oneself from getting infected by HIV.
The grassroots-level efforts conducted by the Government of India to prevent PMTCT (prevention of mother-to-child transmission of HIV infection) were carried out in four stages. In the first stage, a nationwide awareness drive was carried out for the primary prevention of HIV infection among women of childbearing age. The next phase was learning how to prevent unintended pregnancies among women living with HIV, followed by the prevention of HIV transmission from a woman living with HIV to her infant, and finally offering support from non-government and government organisations for treatment, care, and support to women living with HIV, their children, and their families.
What is HIV/AIDS?
Human immunodeficiency virus is more commonly known as HIV, whereas AIDS stands for acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, a devastating infection that causes destruction of white blood cells due to HIV attack. White blood cells are essential to the body’s immune system. HIV infects human cells and combines with the cell’s genetic material. It can remain inactive for years until, after some uncertain time, it becomes active, resulting in serious infections and, with the symptoms of AIDS, a fatal disease. AIDS reduces the body’s immune system to such an extent that various organs and cells get infected and fail, thereby resulting in the death of the patient affected by HIV.
There are two groups of white blood cells: one of them is CD4+ lymphocytes, and another is monocytes or macrophages. The function of CD4 cells and macrophages in white blood cells is to recognise and destroy viruses, bacteria, or infectious agents that gain control of cells and cause disease. CD4+ lymphocytes of white blood cells in the blood are destroyed by the virus in an HIV-infected person, and macrophages of white blood cells act as reservoirs that carry HIV to a number of vital organs. HIV-infected people are susceptible to rare cancers such as Kaposi’s sarcoma, a blood cancer. The HIV virus may attack the brain, causing neurological and neuropsychiatric problems. There is good news for people affected by AIDS: early treatment with improved drugs can prolong life.
Types of HIV/AIDS
HIV 1 and HIV 2 are types of HIV viruses that cause fatal organ failure by infecting human cells to such an extent that the entire immune system is destroyed. If not treated, there are three stages of HIV infection. Stage 1 is acute HIV infection; stage 2 is chronic HIV infection; and stage 3 is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV-infected people may experience mild flu-like symptoms for short intervals. Highly advanced clinical research of blood samples can diagnose this type of sickness as seroconversion illness, which is the highest infectious stage of HIV attack, followed by the asymptomatic stage, where there are no symptoms of illness and the person can live for several years without any incidence of sickness. If a person is still not treated for HIV infection, there is symptomatic HIV, where the immune system has already collapsed. The last stage of HIV is known as AIDS, defining illnesses like pneumonia, cancer, or tuberculosis where a person meets untimely death due to multiple organ failure.
Symptoms of HIV/AIDS
There are multiple symptoms that indicate whether a person has been infected with HIV or AIDS. The best and most appropriate way to ensure this is by undergoing a blood test for HIV; if it comes back positive, the person should seek medical treatment and be kept under observation. There are flu-like symptoms for HIV, like fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, sore throat, mouth ulcers, or swollen lymph nodes. In the case of an AIDS infection, a person will observe symptoms like rapid weight loss, profuse sweats during sleep or recurrence of fever, extreme tiredness, sores of the mouth, anus, or genitals, pneumonia, diarrhoea that remains for more than a week, prolonged swellings of lymph glands in the neck, groyne, or armpit, red or brown blotches around the neck and mouth, memory loss, neurological disorders, and depression.
Causes of HIV/AIDS
The main ways of transmitting HIV are
- Blood transfusion, the use of already-used needles and syringes during blood donation camps, and other piercing instruments, like ear or nose piercings, are pierced in girls for jewellery.
- Operation theatres that contain blood or blood products, tissues, and organs in the case of kidney, liver, eyeball, or other organ transplant surgeries
- Mother-to-child transmission when new-born babies are breastfed by an HIV-positive mother may cause infection with symptoms like diarrhoea.
- Unprotected sexual intercourse (anal and vaginal) occurs when a couple, especially a man, forgets to use a condom during sex and transmits HIV/AIDS, herpes, or skin disease in case he had sex with an HIV-infected partner.
It is important to understand that HIV cannot be transmitted by any of the activities like coughing or sneezing, hugging, kissing, shaking hands with others, using drinking fountains, getting mosquito or insect bites, using a public phone, visiting a hospital, sharing food or utensils, using public swimming pools, or using public toilets or showers.
Treatment of HIV/AIDS
There is treatment and definite recovery from HIV infection if treated at an early stage. The treatment for HIV/AIDS is known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). HIV-positive people will be administered HIV medicines every day. ART is not a cure for HIV; however, it helps people with HIV live a longer and healthier life. NNRTIs—non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors—turn down the protein supply required by HIV that would otherwise multiply. Some of the medicines for treatment of HIV are efavirenz (Sustiva), rilpivirine (Edurant), and doravirine (Pifeltro), Combivir (Zidovudine and Lamivudine), Trizivir (Zidovudine, Lamivudine, and Abacavir), Epzicom (Abacavir and Lamivudine), and Truvada (Tenofovir and Lamivudine).
Unani treatment on HIV/AIDS has medicines that contain herbs like Aloe, Alpha-Lipoic Acid, Calendula, Cat’s claw,Glutamine, Lemon Balm, Spirulina, Selenium, Vitamin A, B12, B6, Vitamin E and Zinc.