AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is one of the most serious public health and human rights issues of our time. With more than 36 million people living with HIV and AIDS worldwide, the devastating impact of this virus cannot be overstated.
WHAT IS AIDS?
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system, which is the body’s natural defence against illness and disease. HIV is most commonly spread through unprotected sex, contaminated needles and blood transfusions, and from mother to child during pregnancy, birth and breastfeeding. AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) is the advanced stage of HIV infection, when the immune system is severely weakened and the body can no longer fight off certain infections and diseases. AIDS is a life-threatening condition and is the last stage of HIV.
TRANSMISSION OF THE VIRUS
Through Sex: HIV can be transmitted through unprotected vaginal, anal, and/or oral sex with an infected individual.
Through Blood: HIV can be transmitted through exposure to infected blood, including sharing needles, syringes, or other drug-injection equipment.
From Mother to Baby: HIV can be passed from an infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding
SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
Early HIV infection may cause flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headache, rash, sore throat, and swollen lymph nodes. As the infection progresses, individuals may experience more severe symptoms, such as night sweats, fever, and weight loss. Many of the symptoms of HIV infection are similar to those of other illnesses and may not be recognised as indicating HIV infection.
OTHER SIGNS AND SYMPTOMS
- Persistent fatigue
- Unexplained headaches
- Recurrent yeast infections or other infections
- Skin rashes or flaky skin
- Unexplained diarrhoea or vomiting
- Coughing and shortness of breath
- Memory loss or confusion
- Depression or anxiety
- Prolonged fever that doesn't respond to medication
- Sores in the mouth, genitals, or anus
- Unexplained night sweats
- Swollen lymph nodes for more than two months
TREATMENT AND PREVENTION
Treatment for HIV/AIDS consists of a combination of medications known as antiretroviral therapy (ART). ART helps to suppress the virus, allowing the body to restore its natural immunity. Without treatment, HIV will eventually weaken the immune system, increasing the risk of developing AIDS and other opportunistic infections. Therefore, the earlier an individual tests positive for HIV and begins treatment the better.
HIV can be prevented through safe sex practices, needle-exchange programs, and increased access to testing and treatment. Individuals who are at high risk of contracting HIV should consider taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) medications, which are designed to reduce the risk of HIV transmission. Other preventative measures such as using condoms during sexual activity, abstaining from drug use, and knowing the HIV status of sexual partners are recommended to reduce the risk of transmission. Additionally, early detection and treatment can reduce the spread of HIV as well.
BREAK THE STIGMA
Social Stigma is one of the most significant issues affecting those living with HIV/AIDS. It is an attitude that manifests in a variety of forms, ranging from personal discrimination to public policy decisions. The impact of this stigma can be devastating on the individuals living with HIV/AIDS, preventing them from seeking necessary medical attention and support.
Studies have shown that individuals living with HIV/AIDS who experience stigma tend to report more anxiety and depression. They may be reluctant to seek medical attention due to fear of discrimination or judgement from healthcare providers. This can lead to delayed diagnosis and treatment, leading to worsened physical and mental health outcomes. So it's important to creating an environment of understanding, acceptance and support for those living with HIV/AIDS.