Acquired Immune-Deficiency Syndrome, popularly known by its abbreviation AIDS is a fatal disease as it attacks and destroys the immune system of the body. It is caused by a virus called Human Immuno Deficiency Virus or HIV in short. This virus is even invisible to a microscope and can remain in die body for years together without showing any visible symptoms. AIDS is the last stage of infection of the virus. It takes at least 10 years of period between getting infected with HIV and reaching the stage of developing AIDS. The first ever case of a person with AIDS was detected in America in 1959 which later emerged as a dreadfully widespread disease in the 1980s in countries like France, Belgium, Uganda, Zambia, Tanzania, Zimbabwe etc. In India, it was first reported in 1986.
HIV is a fast spreading disease in the world which if—not controlled—can take an epidemic proportion. As per the reports of Indian Health Organization (IHO), women and children are found to be more prone to the disease. The highest numbers of AIDS cases are found in Mumbai in India which is known as die AIDS capital of the country and is closely followed by Chennai, Thiruvanandiapuram, Nagpur, Aurangabad and Kolhapur. Mizoram, Manipur, Nagaland and Delhi too have a number of HIV cases being reported in die recent years.
As per die common myth, HIV infection is not contagious as is measles, chicken pox, tuberculosis, cholera, plague, smallpox etc. The infection mainly spreads through a sexual route or blood to blood contact. HIV spreads mainly through sexual relationship-whether heterosexual or homosexual with an infected partner, transfusion of HIV infected blood and blood products, use of infected syringes or needles and is passed on by an infected mother to her unborn child. It is therefore, foolish to believe that HIV spreads through mosquitoes, embracing, holding, touching or kissing each other, shaking hands, coughing, sneezing, spitting, sharing of public toilets or swimming pools, sharing meals or eating from the same plates, or sharing clothes, bedsheets or attending similar schools or working together.
AIDS is in reality caused by a slow and gradual process. Medically, four stages have been defined in its long process. The initial HIV infection may show general symptoms like fever, bodyache or headache and then lie dormant for years together without showing any further signs. The infection can be passed on through. Next, a person may develop enlarged glands in the neck or armpits without any pain or other symptoms. Other symptoms can be fatigue, weight-loss, chronic diarrhoea, prolonged fever, cough, night sweats etc. Gradually, the virus damages the immune system. The last stage of die disease takes at least 10 years to culminate into a fully blown AIDS. By this time, die patient’s immune system is totally destroyed and the person gets infected by various diseases and cancers. This stage is easily recognized and a man survives for about 3-4 years after entering this stage.
Two tests are carried out in order to confirm HIV infection—ELISA and Western Blot. ELISA is simple and the results can be known within a few hours but Western Blot is difficult, expensive and time consuming. It is carried out to confirm the first test. What had initially been thought of as a homosexual disease h» emerged as one of the most widespread one among men, women and children of ail ages. The diseases in many ways—strikes at the very foundation of the smallest unit of society – the family. The victims and their families go through a phase of emotional trauma, social isolation and are shatterred financially. The victims are removed form their jobs, disowned by their families and turned down everywhere. The facilities currently available are inadequate. More and more medical colleges, hospitals and counseling centres need to be developed.
Awareness about the disease, its causes add treatment should be created among the masses. Schools and colleges can be a Very effective medium of creating awareness among the youth. These youths in turn can be instrumental in spreading awareness among the other sections of the society. HIV patients need to be cared with compassion and be allowed to live and die with dignity. Voluntary organizations can help the government in accomplishing this task by various means of advertising, performing street plays, conducting seminars and involving the youth.