Human Immunodeficiency virus(HIV) has claimed 32 million lives worldwide since it was first detected in the 1980s. By the end of 2018, approximately 38 million people were living with Acquired Immunodeficiency syndrome(AIDS) globally while 1.7 million new infections were recorded in the same year itself.
The good news is that in the last 18 years since the beginning of 2000, several positive steps have been taken towards controlling AIDS. Statistics are proof. While new infections reduced by 35%, AIDS deaths went down by 45% and 13.6 million people around the world were saved from the clutches of this deadly disease due to antiretroviral therapy (ART). This has been possible with countries stepping up the ante on their national AIDS programmes and encouraging the participation of NGOs in the fight against this deadly disease.
AIDS and its transmission
HIV is known to target the immune system gradually lowering the capability of your body to fight against infections. Exchange of body fluids from an HIV infected person is enough to transmit the disease. A new born baby can also get infected from an HIV positive mother. The infected person might be completely unaware in the absence of any distinct symptoms. Infection is accompanied by fever, rash, headache or a sore throat. AIDS is a condition that develops if this HIV infection goes untreated for 2 to 15 years. Initial AIDS symptoms include swelling of the lymph nodes, losing weight, fever, loose motions and cough. If AIDS treatment is not provided in time, patients develop tuberculosis (TB), cryptococcal meningitis, complex bacterial infections and life threatening cancers.
Activities which increase the risk of patients to contract the disease and develop their very first AIDS symptoms include:
- unprotected sex
- a sexually transmitted infection (STI) such as syphilis, herpes, gonorrhoea etc.
- injury due to a needle prick, especially among health workers
- sharing an infected needle, syringe or any such equipment
- an unsafe medical procedure such as a blood transfusion or tissue transplant
The road to treatment success
A CD4 cell count is one of the earliest diagnostic tests to undergo if you notice any of the AIDS symptoms mentioned above. It detects antibodies produced by your immune system in response to HIV and helps in getting the patient started on AIDS treatment. This is a crucial step in the battle against the disease and it is commendable how with the concerted scientific efforts worldwide, antiretrovirals (ARVs) have emerged as an effective treatment for AIDS.
It was in 1987 that the first ARV was approved and by 1995 they were being prescribed for AIDS treatment in different combinations since single use benefitted only in the short term. In 1996, 60 to 80% reduction in AIDs related deaths was reported using 3 ARVs. This came to be known as highly active antiretroviral treatment (HAART).
The National AIDS Control Organisation(NACO) was set up in India in 1992 and its work has been quite the success story. Today, new infections have come down by a whopping 80% percent and mortality due to AIDS is down by 79%. While globally, an average reduction of 47% in HIV infections and 51% in death due to HIV has been recorded. Given its track record in controlling AIDS, the cabinet earlier this year approved continuation of the National AIDS control programme for 3 years.
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