World AIDS Day (1st December) is something that comes around but once a year however it is a disease that affects people every day of the year. Today is the day that has been chosen for the public to sit up and take notice of a debilitating disease that has taken and continues to take many lives every day. Something that is worldwide is also one subject that remains taboo. Society have yet to deem it okay to speak out about AIDS and many feel it is necessary to hide away with this illness.
In 2013 there were 35 Million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS (3.2 Million of these were children less than 15 years of age)
World Health Organisation (WHO)
2.1 Million worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2013 (Over 240k children under the age of 15 – most in sub-Saharan Africa where the infection was passed over during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding)
Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected area with 24.7 Million people living with HIV (71% of people in the world living with HIV are in this region) (2013)
Since 1981 – 39 Million people have died and 1.5 Million have died from AIDS related causes in 2013.
The figures above bring tears to my eyes as I think of the suffering that goes on everyday. This post is not a plea for you to feel sorry for me and my feelings but hopefully it will educate you a little with regards to HIV & AIDS and what they are.
Today is the day that we should all stand up and take notice, stand up and say STOP, TALK TO ME, I WILL LISTEN. Just because an individual has AIDS does not make them dirty, horrible, nasty people. So let’s learn a little about HIV & AIDS.
What is HIV?
H – Human
Particular virus can only infect Humans.
I – Immunodeficiency
A deficient (weakened) immune system – after important cells have been destroyed your immune system loses it capability to fight disease and infection.
V – Virus
Something that can reproduce only by using a cell in your body as a host.
HIV may present like a common cold or the flu, the main difference that should be remembered is your body cannot fight off this virus and once you have HIV it is a virus that you will have for life. So far there is no cure for this.
Your body has an array of different types of cells, your T-Cells (also known as CD4 cells) are a type of white blood cell that play a major role in your body’s ability to protect against infection. When these cells detect a trespasser like a virus or bacteria a signal is sent to the brain to activate your immune system.
When your immune system responds you may feel symptoms such as fevers, aches, pains and other symptoms that are all common signs of your body trying to fight the infection it is presented with. Each symptom helps the body combat infection, assist with repair and conserve any energy however when symptoms are not controlled and are in motion for long periods of time they can cause more harm than good.
Once infected with HIV the virus attacks and aims to destroy the T-Cells within that persons immune system which eventually leads to poor ability to fight further infection and leaves the individual open to other infections and diseases. Check out the HIV life cycle here to better understand how HIV replicates and spreads through the body.
Treatment for HIV comes in the form of ‘Anti-RetroViral Therapy‘ (ART) by taking such medication the levels of HIV in your body can be controlled and kept at a lower level than if they are left untreated. ART is a combination of medications taken daily to fight the HIV infection – although it will not go away this is a method of control to aid the individual in leading and longer healthier life and reducing the risks of transmitting the disease to others. With ART an individual that is diagnosed with HIV can now have an almost ‘normal’ life expectancy whereas before the introduction of such therapy people with HIV could advance to AIDS in just a few short years.
As time passes HIV may destroy so many of your T-Cells that your body is completely incapable of fighting ANY infection or disease. When this happens HIV can go into its final stage also known as AIDS. However please do not make the mistake in thinking that EVERYONE who suffers from HIV progresses to AIDS.
What is AIDS?
Cannot be inherited but can be picked up after birth
I – Immuno
The body’s immune system – organs and cells that fight of infection and disease
D – Deficiency
Not working the way it should.
S – Syndrome
A group of symptoms that together are a characteristic of a certain disease.
With regards to AIDS as it is not a single disease it is known as a syndrome – this is due to its complex nature and range of complications and symptoms that occur.
As mentioned in the HIV section of this post AIDS is not something that everyone who suffers from HIV will eventually have as it is the final stage of HIV. People who unfortunately reach this stage suffer with extremely badly damaged immune systems which pose an increased risk of infections (known as opportunistic infections -OI’s).
Check out the list of OI’s here. The individual is considered to have advanced to AIDS when they suffer from on or more of the OI’s on that list, certain cancers (Lymphoma, Primary Central Nervous System Lymphoma, Kaposi’s Sarcoma, Anal Cancer and Invasive Cervical Cancer) or an extremely low T-Cell count.
With the mention of Cancer please remember that HIV does not cause Cancer however it greatly increases the risk. If you have AIDS then it is imperative that you seek treatment and medical intervention to prevent death.
As mentioned above scientists are yet to find a cure for HIV/AIDS however the fight continues.
What Can You Do About It?
Get tested TODAY
And if you find out that someone has HIV/AIDS do not shun them, be that shoulder to cry on, listen to them and if you can even in the form of a hug, HELP them.
There are many medical professionals out there that could most probably explain the disease a lot better than I can but from research and working in the field of HIV I can only hope this post helps. If you have any questions please leave them in the comments box and if I cannot answer them I will try my hardest to find the answer for you.