1st December is observed as World AIDS Day. Youth Inc tells you about the big disease that is haunting the world
Come 1st December and you will see people sporting red ribbons, an international symbol of HIV awareness. World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization.
WHAT IS IT?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus which attacks the body’s immune system and decreases the resistance power. This makes the body prone to other fatal diseases. AIDS is an advanced condition caused by the HIV virus. HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles and passed on from an HIV positive mother to her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding. Globally, an estimated 33.3 million people have HIV and around 2.4 million people in India are currently living with this virus.
SCENARIO IN INDIA
In India, people are not fully aware about the precautions, prevention and treatment of the HIV epidemic. Educating them about it is complicated as the sheer variety of local languages and hundreds of dialects spoken by its population make communication difficult. Efforts need to be carried out at the state and local level.
A person having HIV/AIDS is promiscuous
Reality: This myth looks at those with HIV in an extremely negative light. Peoplethink of them as immoral humans with unhealthy lifestyles. But in reality, a person who has had unsafe sex with even a single HIV positive partner can get infected.
A person who is HIV positive will die soon
Reality: Although there is no definite or concrete cure for HIV/AIDS, there are medicines available that fight HIV strains and help strengthen the immune system of a person and increase his longevity. Regular visits to the doctor, timely medications and understanding the illness, its causes, treatment and its stages go a long way. Anti-retroviral medications (ART) can also be taken to reduce the level of HIV in the body.
The baby of an HIV positive pregnant mother will also have the infection.
Reality: There are less than two per cent chances of the baby being infected with HIV when the mother is HIV positive. If the condition of the mother is previously known, certain treatments can be undertaken to protect the unborn baby from being infected. The baby should not be breastfed by the infected mother.
Only homosexual people get HIV/AIDS
Reality: Anyone can get AIDS. Unsafe sex, blood-to-blood contact or sharing needles with any partner – male, female or both – will put a person at risk, irrespective of their sexual orientation.
TIME TO GET TESTED
While symptoms are not visible in the initial stage of AIDS, the second stage manifests as minor illnesses like ear infections, frequent flu and skin problems. To know whether you are HIV positive or not, get your blood tested at the nearest clinic. If the result is positive, you should tell your sexual partners to get tested too.
MAKE A DIFFERENCE
Want to help AIDS victims but don’t know how? Here are a few organisations which accept volunteers and offer student placements:
• The Humsafar Trust works towards a comprehensive approach to reduce the spread of HIV/AIDS in India. http://www.humsafar.org
• Desire Society is functioning with an objective of health development and well-being of children infected and affected with HIV and AIDS in India. http://www.desiresociety.org
Volume 2 Issue 6