is World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is held on 1 December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to commemorate people who have died. World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day and the first one was held in 1988.
Why is World AIDS Day important?
Around 100,000 are currently living with HIV in the UK and globally an estimated 34 million people have HIV. More than 35 million people have died from the virus, making it one of the most destructive pandemics in history.
Today, many scientific advances have been made in HIV treatment, there are laws to protect people living with HIV and we understand so much more about the condition. But despite this, people do not know the facts about how to protect themselves and others from HIV, and stigma and discrimination remain a reality for many people living with HIV. World AIDS Day is important as it reminds the public and Government that HIV has not gone away – there is still a vital need to raise money, increase awareness, fight prejudice and improve education.
What should I do on World AIDS Day?
World AIDS Day is an opportunity for you to facts about HIV and put your knowledge into action. Find out how much you know by taking our online quiz: Are you HIV aware? Test your knowledge and awareness by taking the quiz and act aware by passing the quiz on and sharing it with your friends on Twitter and Facebook.
If you understand how HIV is transmitted, how it can be prevented, and the reality of living with HIV today – you can use this knowledge to take care of your own health and the health of others, and ensure you treat everyone living with HIV fairly, and with respect and understanding. Click here to find out the facts.
You can also show your support for people living with HIV on World AIDS Day by wearing a red ribbon, the international symbol of HIV awareness and support.
World AIDS Day is also a great opportunity to raise money for NAT (National AIDS Trust) and show your support for people living with HIV. If you feel inspired to hold an event, bake sale or simply sell red ribbons, click. If you’d like to see what other events are taking place — click here and find out more.
But what about after World AIDS Day?
Although World AIDS Day is a great opportunity to get the public talking about HIV and fundraise, we need to remember the importance of raising awareness of HIV all year round. That’s why NAT has launched HIV aware— a fun, interactive website which provides all the information everyone should know about HIV. Why not use what you have learnt on World AIDS Day to Act Aware throughout the year and remember, you can fundraise at any time of year too — NAT is always here to give you suggestions and ideas.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is the cause of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS). Transmission of the virus occurs most commonly through the exchange of body fluids by sharing needles, sharing intravenous drugs or through unprotected sex. It is NOT spread through casual contact, mosquitoes or by touching items that were touched by an infected person.
Symptoms are most virulent during this first phase, making it even more vital to receive regular testing and be aware of early symptoms of infection.
When a patient is infected with HIV, they will begin to detect symptoms typically within a month or two. Some patients report symptoms as early as two weeks after exposure, while in others they can take as long as three months to appear or never show at all. Early symptoms of ARS include things like headache, fever, tiredness, swollen lymph nodes, and rash. Less common symptoms include muscle and joint pain, sore throat, and ulcers in the mouth or genitals.
Even more rarely, night sweats and diarrhea can follow infection. Many of these symptoms can be mistaken for more common ailments like the flu, a respiratory infection, or gastrointestinal troubles. Again, the commonality and variance in time or appearance of symptoms make testing the only truly reliable way to determine whether or not one is infected.
What makes HIV and AIDS particularly dangerous is not the symptoms of the virus infecting the body itself, but in what’s known as opportunistic infections. HIV acts to lower the effectiveness of the immune system, leaving the body particularly susceptible to passing disease and infection-producing microorganisms that the body would usually fight off with ease.
Once infected with HIV, the body has a hard time resisting these infections and can collect enduring symptoms related to these secondary infections. As a result of this process, increasing illnesses that do not resolve in the usual time frame or respond to usual treatments can also be a sign of HIV infection.
After the first highly infectious stage, the virus enters a period known as chronic or latent HIV. This phase can last a decade or longer, during which the virus goes into a relatively dormant phase and is not as virulent as it is in the first stage of ARS. Despite this, HIV is still quite infectious and absolutely capable of being transferred to others during risky behaviors. Latent HIV is not dead HIV; it is still quite possible to spread the disease even when no symptoms are presenting.
Most HIV patients during this latent HIV stage show no symptoms, in fact, particularly those connected to HIV itself. Secondary infections from the lowered immune response may still be present. The latent phase eventually becomes full-blown AIDS, which brings with it symptoms like vomiting, nausea, fatigue, fever, and the increased presence of opportunistic infection. With early detection and treatment, an HIV patient can avoid ever developing AIDS.
Early symptoms of HIV infection
There are two types of HIV: HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-2 is found mainly in Western Africa, while HIV-1 is found worldwide. Both strands of the virus start with infection. Initial or acute HIV infection is followed by a period of no symptoms (asymptomatic HIV infection), followed by early symptomatic HIV and then AIDS.
Symptoms of acute HIV may or may not manifest after an initial exposure. These symptoms usually dissipate spontaneously in a few weeks and may include:
Lethargy or fatigue
After initial symptoms, the disease often goes into a period of remission. This window period, known as asymptomatic HIV, can last for months or up to 10 years. During this time, an infected person can still pass the disease to other people.
When the HIV infection manifests again, a person’s T4 cells and CD4 cells—the body’s main fighters of infection—have been compromised, weakening the individual. Symptoms of early symptomatic HIV infection include:
Loss of weight
Lethargy, malaise or fatigue
Fevers and sweats
Frequent yeast infections
Herpes infections causing sores in the anus, genitalia and mouth
Late symptoms of AIDS
AIDS is the final stage of HIV. By the time HIV develops into AIDS, severe damage has been caused to the immune system, making the infected person vulnerable to attacks from the germs that are encountered daily. Serious illness or cancer may occur in those who have AIDS.
Patients with AIDS (HIV infection with less than 200 CD4 cells/ml of blood) may experience the following:
Confusion and loss of memory
Loss of coordination
Dysphagia (difficulty in swallowing)
Shortness of breath and chronic cough
Various malignancies are linked with AIDS such as:
Kaposi Sarcoma: Reddish-brown round spots found on the skin and mouth. Prognosis is 2-3 years
Lymphomas: Cancers of the lymphatic or immune system
.Tests and Diagnosis
HIV is both preventable and treatable. The Center for Disease Control recommends that everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 and all pregnant women get tested at least once. HIV testing is usually included in routine screenings by your healthcare provider, though you have the right to opt-out, or refuse, a test. If you think you may have been exposed to HIV, get tested. You can get tested at a doctor’s office, a clinic, or a mobile testing location. You can even buy a home test at your local pharmacy.
An infected person may not see positive results until 2-24 weeks after exposure to HIV. During this time, a person can still be contagious. Patients who believe they have come in contact with HIV should perform a test at six weeks, three months and six months.
Blood Tests That Detect HIV
There are three main tests that can be performed to detect HIV/AIDS:
Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay or ELISA Test: searches for antibodies and is generally the first test done to find HIV infection; if found to be positive, the test is repeated
Western Blot Test: also an antibody detection test; is more challenging to perform than ELISA and is typically performed to confirm two positive ELISA test results; is required before a positive HIV diagnosis is reported in the United States
Polymerase Chain Reaction (PCR) Test: detects the genetic material – RNA or DNA – of the HIV virus in white blood cells; can be positive when antibodies are not present yet, so it is beneficial in recent infection, but is more technically challenging and expensive to perform; is used to screen blood supplies for HIV in most developed countries
Privacy and HIV Tests
If you’re concerned about HIV tests results and your privacy, you have two options for testing:
Confidential testing: Your test results will go in your medical record and may be shared with your healthcare providers, insurance company and your state’s health department.
Anonymous testing: Your name and other identifying information will not be attached to your test results. Instead, you will receive a unique identifier that allows you to access your results. Not all HIV test sites offer anonymous testing, so it’s important to ask before you get tested.
For those who would prefer to perform HIV tests in their privacy of their own homes, anonymous home testing kits that analyze either blood or saliva are available. The blood tests require that blood be sent to a lab for results, while the saliva test is completely done at home. ..
Question about HIV/AIDS Diagnosis
Is the diagnosis accurate? Is there a different medical condition HIV/AIDS can be confused with?
Is there a difference in type of tests for HIV vs. AIDS? What type of testing do you do and why?
If the HIV test is negative, does it need to be repeated over time? If so, how long must I wait and how often should I be tested?
What are the symptoms that I may experience?
How severe is my condition and what is my prognosis? How long can I live with AIDS?
How will my immune system be monitored?
What are the complications of AIDS? What organ systems are affected? How are they monitored?
Questions about HIV/AIDS Treatment
If I have been exposed to HIV, should I get preventative treatment to inhibit the infection? Is there one available?
What treatment do you recommend for me? What are the side effects of the drugs?
How long must I take the drugs before I see a result? Can the drugs cure me of AIDS?
Will I have to take the drugs forever or just for symptomatic relief? What happens if I don’t take the drugs?
How will the treatment be monitored? How often will it be done?
What other tests do I need? How often do I need them?
Questions about Lifestyle and Family
Am I contagious to my family and friends? Should I avoid being in large crowds?
What should I do to prevent passing the virus to those close to me?
Is there exercise I can do to keep my immunity up?
Are there specific vitamins that I should take? Are there supplements or herbs that can help me?
Will I still be able to work? Are there activities that I should avoid?
Will I be able to have children?
Can I still have protected sex?
Alternative Therapies for HIV/AIDS
Herbs, vitamins and supplements all play a part in the treatment of HIV/AIDS. However, these therapies are NOT a substitute for the traditional or conventional medication combinations that are prescribed by the specialist.
Rather, these natural therapies are meant as an adjunct or a complementary addition in order to help the patient overcome a particular physical obstacle caused by either the medications being taken, or the disease itself. Common vitamins and supplements.
For further information WHO and UN websites about HIV and AIDS, Country Agencies, email to firstname.lastname@example.org, send text only to 002207774469/3774469.
Author: DR H.AZADEH, Senior Lecturer at the University of the Gambia, Senior Consultant in Obstetrics & Gynaecology, Clinical Director at Medicare Health Services.