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What are HIV and AIDS?

Over the last fifteen years a new disease spread by a family of viruses, HIV has spread globally. HIV stands for Human lmmuno-deficiency Virus.

HIV has been given this name because its long-term effect is to attack the immune system of the body, making it weak and deficient. We live virtually in a sea of microorganisms and at every moment an enormous number of them are entering our body. It is the immune system that normally fights off these microorganisms and keeps us healthy. Any compromise with the working of the immune system has profound effect on our body.

After about 5 to 10 years of contracting the HIV infection, the virus has weakened the immune system of the patients so much that they develop a number of different illnesses such as tuberculosis, pneumonia, persistent diarrhea, fever and skin infections. This condition is called AIDS Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.

Why do you need to know about it?

At the moment it is estimated that 13 million people in the world may have HIV. Every day there are thousands of new cases of HIV infections in the world and these occur in every country. People who have HIV may have no symptoms for many years, and infected people may not even be aware that they have the virus. They look and feel well, but can infect other people during this time.

The most difficult aspect of HIV/AIDS is that though there are medicines, which can help them, cope with these illnesses, there is no vaccine, and no cure for the HIV, so almost all the infected people become more and more ill and eventually die. It is important that we all know and understand about this infection, so we can protect our families and ourselves.

We have responsibility not only towards ourselves but also towards our children who are growing up in a very different world from that of our childhood. They will have many new opportunities, but also may sometimes be faced with new relationships, standards of behavior and new risks. It is up to us to explain the truth of the situation to them in an honest and informed way, so they may have the knowledge to take the necessary steps to protect their health.

We have to understand that presently prevention is the only cure of HIV/AIDS and that can come about only if we are adequately informed about it. Following are some frequently asked questions about HIV/AIDS:

How does HIV affect the body? Is it the same as AIDS?

When HIV gets into a persons blood it attaches itself to a special type of white blood cells called as helper T-Lymphocytes. These Helper T-cells are crucial in defending the body against many infections. During all this the persons have no symptoms at all. They look and feel well. They may not know they now have the virus, but could pass it on to someone else through having sex, or by sharing needles or syringes.

Special care has to be taken for the pregnant woman having HIV and the newborn baby of such mothers. The scenario is very pathetic due to the growing morbidity and mortality associated with AIDS.


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