- World AIDS Day 2021: HIV targets the immune system of the person
- All HIV patients might not get AIDS; it’s the later stage of HIV infection
- HIV is transmitted through the exchange of body fluid and physical contact
New Delhi: HIV continues to be a major global public health issue, having claimed 36.3 million lives so far. 37.7 million people are estimated to be living with HIV in 2020, according to the World Health Organisation (WHO). According to the experts, early diagnosis and treatment of HIV can prevent it from taking the shape of AIDS. But what’s the difference between HIV and AIDS? How to detect it? On World AIDS Day, marked every year on December 1 to raise awareness and educate people about this major public health issue, here are five frequently asked questions (FAQs) about HIV and AIDS.
What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?
National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) defines HIV as Human Immunodeficiency Virus which on entering the human body gradually destroys the immune system, which is the natural ability to fight infections and diseases. Immune function is typically measured by CD4 cell count; CD4 cells or white blood cells fight infection.
On the other hand, the most advanced stage of HIV infection is Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), which can take many years to develop if not treated, and varies among individuals. AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections or other severe long-term clinical manifestations, states WHO.
This essentially means that being diagnosed with HIV does not mean a person will also be diagnosed with AIDS.
How do people get HIV infection?
As per NACO, HIV can be transmitted through:
- Unprotected sex with an HIV infected person;
- Transfusion of HIV infected blood or blood products;
- Sharing of needles contaminated with HIV infected blood;
- From HIV-infected mother to her baby – during pregnancy, during birth or after delivery through breast milk.
Importantly, HIV doesn’t spread through ordinary social contact; for example, by shaking hands, traveling in the same bus, eating from the same utensils, by hugging or social kissing.
Additionally, as per WHO, people with HIV who are taking antiretroviral therapy (ART), the primary treatment for HIV and are virally suppressed do not transmit HIV to their sexual partners.
What are the symptoms of HIV?
The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months after being infected, many are unaware of their status until the later stages, states WHO and adds, in the first few weeks after initial infection people may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.
Since HIV affects the immune system, in the long run, people can develop other signs and symptoms like swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis (TB), cryptococcal meningitis, severe bacterial infections, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Is there a treatment available for HIV/AIDS?
While there is no cure, effective Anti-Retroviral Treatment (ART) drugs are available which can prolong the life of an HIV-positive person, thus enhancing the quality of life as well.
Importantly, current ART does not cure HIV infection but highly suppresses viral replication within a person’s body and allows an individual’s immune system recovery to strengthen and regain the capacity to fight off opportunistic infections and some cancers, says WHO.
A patient has to take lifelong treatment once initiated on ART. It is freely available at ART centres across India, as per NACO.
Since 2016, WHO has recommended that all people living with HIV be provided with lifelong ART, including children, adolescents, adults and pregnant and breastfeeding women, regardless of clinical status or CD4 cell count (number of white blood cells in the body). By June 2021, 187 countries had already adopted this recommendation, covering 99 per cent of all people living with HIV globally.
How is Tuberculosis linked to HIV?
The NACO clearly states that HIV is the strongest risk factor for tuberculosis (TB) among adults. Tuberculosis is the most prominent opportunistic disease to develop amongst persons infected with HIV.
HIV debilitates the immune system increasing the vulnerability to TB and increasing the risk of progression from TB infection to TB disease. People with TB are also susceptible to HIV infection. TB is entirely curable with a full course of treatment, which is freely available up to the Primary Health centres, including ART centres in the country, explains NACO.
NDTV – Dettol have been working towards a clean and healthy India since 2014 via Banega Swachh India initiative, which is helmed by Campaign Ambassador Amitabh Bachchan. The campaign aims to highlight the inter-dependency of humans and the environment, and of humans on one another with the focus on One Health, One Planet, One Future – Leaving No One Behind. It stresses on the need to take care of, and consider, everyone’s health in India – especially vulnerable communities – the LGBTQ population, indigenous people, India’s different tribes, ethnic and linguistic minorities, people with disabilities, migrants, geographically remote populations, gender and sexual minorities. In wake of the current COVID-19 pandemic, the need for WASH (Water, Sanitation and Hygiene) is reaffirmed as handwashing is one of the ways to prevent Coronavirus infection and other diseases. The campaign will continue to raise awareness on the same along with focussing on the importance of nutrition and healthcare for women and children, fight malnutrition, mental wellbeing, self care, science and health, adolescent health & gender awareness. Along with the health of people, the campaign has realised the need to also take care of the health of the eco-system. Our environment is fragile due to human activity, that is not only over-exploiting available resources, but also generating immense pollution as a result of using and extracting those resources. The imbalance has also led to immense biodiversity loss that has caused one of the biggest threats to human survival – climate change. It has now been described as a “code red for humanity.” The campaign will continue to cover issues like air pollution, waste management, plastic ban, manual scavenging and sanitation workers and menstrual hygiene. Banega Swasth India will also be taking forward the dream of Swasth Bharat, the campaign feels that only a Swachh or clean India where toilets are used and open defecation free (ODF) status achieved as part of the Swachh Bharat Abhiyan launched by Prime Minister Narendra Modi in 2014, can eradicate diseases like diahorrea and the country can become a Swasth or healthy India.