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It was in 1981, in the United States, when the first case of Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS was reported. Through thorough research, it was observed that AIDS is actually is caused by HIV (human immunodeficiency virus) and is able to kill and/or damage the cells of the body’s immune system. Specifically, the HIV gradually and painfully destroys the human body’s ability to fight infections and certain cancers (NIAID, 2005). This is the very reason why many who have acquired HIV or AIDS result to an eventual death because of the lack of immune system that protects them from acquiring other forms of illnesses.
HIV can be transferred in a variety of ways. The most common way of getting infected by the disease is through having unprotected sex with an infected partner. The virus causing HIV can quickly enter the body through the lining of the vagina, vulva, penis, rectum, or mouth during sex. Other ways that can transfer HIV is through (NIAID, 2005):
- Sharing drug needles or syringes that has contacted an HIV positive person – this may be a rare case of transferring the virus, but there have been significant number of cases wherein the use of used and contaminated syringes become the factor of infecting other people with HIV
- Be transfused with a blood contaminated by the virus – Blood transfusion is necessary among patients who are having massive blood loss. Some would want to accept blood from nobody else, but the family, extended relatives or friends. However, there are some hospitals who will allow blood transfusion even without proper evaluation of the blood or the person who will donate the blood. In this instance, some people whoa re not aware that they have HIV transfused their own infected blood, deliberately or not.
- Transmit HIV from mother to the baby during pregnancy. An estimated one-quarter to one-third of all the untreated pregnant women infected with HIV will pass the infection to their babies.
Meanwhile AIDS advanced stage of HIV infection. The clearer definition of AIDS includes “all HIV-infected people who have fewer than 200 CD4+ T cells per cubic millimeter of blood”. In people with AIDS, infections are often considered severe and fatal because the immune system is already damaged by HIV that the body cannot fight anymore certain bacteria, viruses, fungi, parasites, and other microbes (NIAID, 2005).
People who have diagnosed with AIDS are believed to be particularly prone to developing various cancers, particularly those caused by the viruses like Kaposi’s sarcoma and cervical cancer, or cancers of the immune system known as lymphomas. It should be noted that children who have acquired AIDS can get the same opportunistic infections as the adults do. They may also have severe forms of the typically common childhood bacterial infections, which may include conjunctivitis, ear infections, and tonsillitis (NIAID, 2005).
“An estimated 39.4 million people worldwide are now living with HIV. The highest prevalence in the world is in sub-Saharan Africa followed by the Caribbean. And according to the latest statistics, the virus is spreading most rapidly in China and the Ukraine and Russia” (http://www.planetwire.org/details/5126, 2004).
HIV and AIDS has been a prominent problem in the history of health and medicine. AIDS or acquired immunodeficiency syndrome is the last stage in a progression of diseases resulting from a viral infection known as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV or AIDS virus). The diseases include a number of unusual and severe infections, cancers and debilitating illnesses, resulting in severe weight loss or wasting away, and diseases affecting the brain and central nervous system. AIDS and HIV is a serious condition that weakens the body’s immune system, leaving it unable to fight off illness. Unfortunately at present, there is still no cure for HIV infection or AIDS, nor is there a vaccine to prevent HIV infection (http://www.healthscout.com/ency/1/101/main.html, 2005).
What is more striking is that HIV/AIDS infection has been plaguing around the areas of the less developed countries. In Africa alone, statistics revealed that AIDS virus is responsible for ten times more deaths than all wars combined. Moreover, according to UNAIDS (the UN agency responsible for HIV/AIDS), about 25 million persons live with HIV/AIDS in Africa, and 13 million have already died of the disease (Chinua, 2000).
Painful as it may seem, but it is a fact that HIV or AIDS virus is considered to provide long-term effects. And this pertains not only to the person suffering with the disease, but also to his/her families and friends and even the society and country they belong with.
Governments of the less developed countries find it very difficult to allocate better financing options for the HIV/AIDS affected individuals. That is why public financing to drug costs in the less developed or developing countries is 20% lower than what the developed countries can offer. Also, health insurance on the less developed countries is also affected. Like for example In Latin America 35% of the population is covered by private health insurance. In Asia, the figure is 10% and in Africa, only 8% of the population is covered by health insurance (Baggaley, 1998). These financial problems would result to borrowing of the government to World Bank hence another long-term financial and/or economic burden for the concerned country.
Also in the less developed countries, families and friends of the HIV/AIDS victim suffer from isolation. Because they belong to a country where there is lack of information dissemination and education regarding HIV and AIDS infection, many would think that it is a disease that could be easily ‘pass’ on to others. Hence, other people would tend to move away from any relative or friend of an HIV/AIDS victim. Moreover, if the person with HIV/AIDS virus has a wife or a husband and children, this husband/wife plus the children will then be subjected to several tests so as to determine if they too, carry the disease. Depression, insecurity and a feeling of humiliation are the end and the long time impact to the friends, relatives and families of an HIV/AIDS virus sufferer.
All the above-stated long term impact of HIV/AIDS infection to the less developed countries happen because of the fact that these countries lack the resources and the means to provide assistance and proper education to its populace. There are so much problems and issues on their country that is why they cannot prioritize on their continuously rising number of HIV/AIDS cases.
Early identification of HIV infection allows to conduct a thorough medical and psyschologic assessment to define the immediate and long-term needs of the patient. A detailed medical history is a crucial first step in treatment and should include a review of the HIV test result, previous infections and sexual and substance use history.
A comprehensive physical examination, including assessments of eye and oral health, neurologic status, skin and lymph nodes, and HIV-associated signs and symptoms, accompanied by open discussion of the patient’s concerns and fears, allows to define the stage of HIV infection, determine the best treatment and lay the foundation for an effective partnership with the patient.
The assessment of immune status is a key element of the patient’s initial evaluation. Measuring the number of CD4 lymphocytes is the primary test for monitoring immune function. It establishes the stage of HIV infection and the prognosis of disease and helps to determine the appropriateness of initiating antiretroviral therapy and prophylaxis for R carinii pneumonia and other opportunistic infections.
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As there is no cure yet for the HIV victims, a number of prevention strategies were conceptualized so as to help prevent the increasing number of HIV or AIDS sufferers. HIV counseling and testing was one of the earliest prevention strategies advocated, implemented and evaluated for at-risk populations, and it remains a key component of the U.S. national HIV prevention strategy especially for women. Federally funded HIV counseling and testing programs, including those headquartered in community health care settings provides about 2.5 million tests each year (CDC, 1999).
It is also important to maintain the use of mass media to increase awareness of people regarding HIV and AIDS. The people must be properly informed about the benefits of using condoms and other safe sex practices. Lastly, the public needs to be aware of some (and rare) cases of unsafe blood transfusion and needle pricks which are contaminated by HIV/AIDS. This is to enlighten everybody and make them vigilant about this disease.
Diet and exercise – this has always been the foremost approach to keep one’s body healthy. If one is recognized HIV positive, the more it is important for him/her to maintain a balanced diet and have regular exercise regime. Green leafy vegetables, organic foods and fruits, lesser oils and fats – these are what should always be served in the dining table. People should move away from fast foods and unhealthy chips which can take away hunger but are not good for the body organs and systems and its functions. In the same manner, having a regular exercise (walking, jogging, sit-ups) is also a must. This does not necessarily mean that one has to go to a gym to exercise, a 30 minute to an hour of walking a day can simply helps the blood pumps and the heart beats normally.
Also, a regular check-up with the doctors should be a habit. One does not need to be positive of HIV first before she/he gets concerned with him/herself. Prevention is always better than cure, hence it is always a good practice to check (and talk with the acknowledged professionals) to assess whether or not the body is in good shape (NIAID, 2005).
- Akukwe, Chinua MD. (2000). HIV/AIDS in Africa: Less Talk and More Action. Web.
- AIDS and HIV Infection. Healthscout.com.
- Baggaley, Rachel MD. (1998). Overview of drugs available for HIV treatment. Web.
- Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), 1999,Anonymous or confidential HW counseling and testing in federally funded testing sites–United States, 1995-1997, Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report, 48(24):509-513.
- “HIV Infection and AIDS: An Overview” (2005). National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases National Institutes of Health Bethesda, MD 20892
- IAVI statement on 2004 HIV/AIDS statistics. (2004). Planetwire.org. Web.