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World AIDS Day 2021: From transmission to prevention, all you need to know

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening health condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that interferes with the body's ability to fight infections

World Aids DayAn apparently healthy-looking person can also be HIV infected. (File Photo)

Every year, December 1 is observed as World AIDS Day across the globe to spread awareness about the disease and remember all those who lost their lives to it. It was first observed in 1988.

The theme of World AIDS Day 2021 is: ‘End inequalities. End AIDS’. “With a special focus on reaching people left behind, WHO and its partners are highlighting the growing inequalities in access to essential HIV services,” World Health Organisation (WHO) said.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is a chronic, potentially life-threatening health condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) that interferes with the body’s ability to fight infections. “Apart from the disease itself, the lack of awareness and social taboos associated with HIV and AIDS are also worsening the condition. All we have to do is to understand the basics about HIV and ensure our protection and get rid of these social taboos,” said Dr Gaurav Jain, consultant, internal medicine, Dharamshila Narayana Superspeciality Hospital.

Transmission

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“AIDS can spread through multiple sources”, said Dr Aditya S Chowti, senior consultant, internal medicine, Fortis Hospital, Bangalore. Further, he listed the various transmission channels.

*By coming in direct contact with certain body fluids from a person infected with HIV, who has a detectable viral load. It can be blood, semen, rectal fluid, vaginal fluid or breast milk.

*You can also contract HIV by having unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected person, sharing drug equipment like needles.

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*It can be transmitted from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.

*By receiving blood transfusion or organ tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV.

Symptoms

An apparently healthy-looking person can also be HIV infected, Dr Jain highlighted.

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“Once HIV converts into AIDS then it may present in initial symptoms like unexplained fatigue, fever, sores around genitals or neck, pneumonia etc,” he added.

Explaining the symptoms, Dr Chowti said, “During stage 1, within 2-3 weeks of getting infected, about two-thirds of the people will have a flu-like illness. You can have fever, chills, rashes, night sweats, muscle aches, mouth ulcers, sore throat, fatigue and lymph nodes.” These symptoms can last for a few days to a few weeks.

“Stage two, also known as clinical latency, might not show any particular symptoms. This stage is also called chronic HIV infection. It can be a long one and may go on for 10 years as well.”

“Stage three is AIDS which results in the weakening of the body’s immune system. Symptoms can be rapid weight loss, recurring fever, night sweats, extreme unexplained tiredness, swollen lymph nodes, chronic diarrhoea, sores in the mouth and genitals, pneumonia, neurological disorders, depression, memory loss and it can also manifest on the skin in the form of rashes,” he added.

Prevention

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It is very crucial to prevent this deadly instead of looking for a cure, Dr Chowti said.

*Make sure you are using protective techniques.
*Make sure you are not using contaminated needles.
*Prevent mother to child transmission.
*If someone is aware of the infection in their body, make sure they are on the right treatment path.

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“Apart from being aware of fresh or sterilised needles at hospitals, be aware of fresh needles at piercing and tattoos shop as well. Ask your tattoo artist to use fresh needles, Dr Jain suggested.

He added, “Opt for the set of pre-marital tests before marriage which includes an HIV test and helps to ensure safety from other STDs as well.”

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First published on: 01-12-2021 at 09:10 IST
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