HIV/AIDS: The Basic Facts You Need to Know

HIV/AIDS: The Basic Facts You Need to Know

HIV/AIDS has become an increasingly devastating pandemic all over the world, and its ravaging magnitude requires urgent attention in order to stem down its negative impacts.

However, young people are particularly at risk of contracting HIV infection because of factors such as ignorance, lack of life skills, early intercourse activity, and drug use. Many have heard about HIV/AIDSbou do not know the facts about how the disease is spread and what to do to prevent it.

This article provides HIV/AIDS: The Basic Facts You Need to Know to help you protect yourself and your loved ones.

See Also; Prevention of Mother to child transmission of HIV infection

 

The acronym HIV stands for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. It is a virus that infects human beings and destroys their immune system consequently exposing the body to different infections.

A person infected with HIV can look and feel healthy for many years and may not know he/she is infected unless they go for a blood test. HIV is found in body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk of lactating mothers.

AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. Aids is the advanced stage of HIV infection. It is a situation that occurs after HIV has destroyed the body defense system and opens the body to different opportunistic infections if not properly managed such as tuberculosis, skin cancer, and persistent diarrhea.

Hence, anyone infected develops various illnesses. At present, AIDS has no cure, it can only be managed with the help of some antiretroviral therapy (ARTs)

 

Why must I do something about HIV and AIDS?

HIV and AIDS have become one of the most devastating epidemics in the world with great impacts on the physical, social, psychological and economic well being of individuals, families, and societies infected and affected by the deadly virus.

The high prevalence among the youth can be traced to their incorrect knowledge about the virus and risky behavior. This is shown in their unprotected intercourse, multiple partners, cult initiation practices that involved the use of contaminated sharp instruments, drugs/alcohol abuse as it impairs their sense of reasoning and judgment.

 

How HIV can be spread?

It transmitted through;

  • unprotected intercourse- vaginal, anal, or oral with an infected person.
  • Blood transfusion, with infected blood that was not screened
  • Mother to child (vertical transmission) during pregnancy, during birth and through breast-feeding.
  • Sharing needles and syringes, razors and other sharp objects with an infected person.

 

How HIV is NOT Spread

HIV is not transmitted through;

  • Hugging, handshaking, coughing, sneezing, eating together, using public toilets,
  • sharing towels, cups, dishes, and cutlery.
  • Mosquito bites
  • Swimming
  • Caring for someone with HIV/AIDS

 

How does HIV cause AIDS?

1. HIV attacks the cells that protect the body from infections.

2. Sero-conversion then takes place about four weeks after the virus has entered the body.

3. There is a gradual replication of the virus. At this stage, the individual may show no signs and symptoms. (Asymptomatic stage).

4. This stage varies between 6 months to 15 years during which the defense cells (CD4) cells are destroyed.

5. Immunity is suppressed as a result of the destruction of the (CD4) cells.

6. Immune suppression gives way to different infections, such as persistent cough, diarrhea, skin infections. At this stage, the immune system can no longer fight infections.

7. When more than one of these illnesses (syndrome) is found in a person, he/she is likely to have AIDS.

 

Who can be infected with HIV?

HIV/AIDS is no respecter of persons. So, anybody can be infected, whether the person is young or old, male or female, rich or poor, educated or not.

It is important to note that the signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS may also occur with other illnesses so only an HIV test will confirm if somebody has HIV/AIDS. Early detection of one’s HIV status through counseling and testing will go a long way to ensuring a good healthy living.

 

How can HIV/AIDS be prevented?

The fact still remains that HIV/AIDS has no cure, so the best way to protect yourself from the deadly virus is through the prevention in the following ways;

  • Abstinence from nonmarital intercourse
  • Maintain mutual fidelity, by staying faithful to one uninfected partner.
  • Correct and consistent condom use during intercourse
  • Screening of blood before transfusion
  • Prevention of mother to child transmission (PMTCT) for pregnant women
  • Desist from sharing sharp objects by using new ones or sterilizing them before use.
  • Encourage voluntary counseling and testing
  • Facilitate a society free of stigma and discrimination.

 

Caring for people living with HIV/AIDS

Contracting HIV is not the end of life. Anti Retroviral therapy is available in most government-owned health facilities at no cost. It is possible for HIV positive people to live a healthy and fulfilled life with the right care and support from the family, community, health facility and place of worship.

Furthermore, people living with HIV/AIDS have equal rights like anyone else and should not be discriminated against and or stigmatized. Treat them with dignity, love, and respect and support them to take good care of themselves.

 

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