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What is AIDS?

It is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome

AIDS is an infectious disease spread by a virus. It is called a “syndrome” because it consists of several signs and symptoms.

The first cases of AIDS were diagnosed in 1981. Since then there has been a rapid spread of the disease in North and South America, Europe, Africa and Asia. Cases are being reported from around the world, and most countries now have people with AIDS, or infected with the virus.

What is HIV?

It is Human Immune deficiency Virus

HIV is a retrovirus, a type of virus that differs from other viruses by its special way of multiplication. HIV was first described in 1983 by a medical researcher in Paris. It has had several names during its history, but HIV has now been accepted internationally.

The virus enters certain cells of the immune system. In these cells, it destroys genetic material. The damage is permanent. All body fluids contain such cells. The concentration is high in BLOOD, SEMEN, VAGINAL SECRETION and BREAST MILK.

1) The only way to stop the spread of the disease is for everybody to understand how it spreads and then to avoid being exposed. Young people should know and understand about HIV/AIDS and how it spreads before they become sexually active. It is too late when they have already been infected.

* The virus is transmitted when body fluid with a high concentration of virus enters into the bloodstream of another person. Modes of transmission are:

- sexual intercourse (vaginal and anal)

- blood transfusions and injections with infected syringes and needles

- During pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding These are the main ways the virus can be transmitted. Other situations when infected body fluids enter into another person’s bloodstream could be during accidents, childbirth or operations if the attending person has open wounds on the hands.

The virus cannot enter the body through:

- living together, holding hands and social kissing (deep kissing may involve blood exchange through small wounds in the gums and thus presents a risk for infection)

- Sharing food and drink or clothes.

- Coughing, sneezing.

- Flies and mosquitoes.

2) When a person has been infected with HIV she/he will carry the virus for the rest of their life. A person with HIV can have the virus for many years before any symptoms develop. A person who is already sick (e.g. with TB) or weak (e.g. during pregnancy) will develop AIDS faster than somebody who is strong and healthy.

 The virus attack CD4+ cells are part of the body’s disease and germ fighting immune system Without them, people with HIV are more susceptible to infections and diseases.

 

An HIV infected person is at higher risk of contracting another infectious disease. This is because HIV weakens the body’s defence system. Therefore it is very important to treat the other infections; they are called “opportunistic infections” because they take advantage of the weakened defence system of the body.

The most common symptoms of AIDS are:

Diarrhea, weight loss, skin rash, cough, fever, mouth sores.

These symptoms are common in many other diseases too. AIDS should be suspected when a person has several of them at the same time and they persist for a long time.

A test should then be done to confirm the diagnosis and give proper treatment to cure the opportunistic infections.

Drug abusers are at risk for HIV infection when they share drug injection equipment and because drugs affect the way people make decisions.

Non-injection drug users experience poor judgment and impaired thinking, often leading to risky behaviors that can increase the risk of getting HIV.

The teacher can play with different student to act a small drama about a village where somebody lives with HIV/AIDS, showing how people react and what should be done. This could then be played by the students at a parents’ gathering.

In class, students could be given different roles and then act out a scene as they think it would happen. One person could be a faithful wife at home, another husband in town, another advising him and another prostitute.

+ Conclusion: - Persons living with HIV/AIDS, as well as their families and friends, need help to accept the situation and be able to continue. Fear, anger and shame are common reactions to AIDS and they often lead to exclusion, isolation and discrimination.

+ The first reaction to bad news is shock, denial and disbelief. The next step, when the fact is accepted is a period with strong emotional reactions of fear, anger and grief. This crisis can be handled in two ways, either positively with talk, acceptance and grief or negatively with blame and avoidance. During this period a person needs much support to cope creatively

How to care for a person living with AIDS?

Remember that people with HIV/AIDS are in need of social contact and support like anyone else. Their skin or breathing does not transmit the infection and they need physical and psychological closeness, as all of us do.

It is important that relatives are well-informed about HIV/AIDS so that they are not scared of being with their sick family member.

Once they know the diagnosis people with HIV need help to struggle with fear, anxiety and anger. Health personnel and relatives need to be prepared for this. Patients need somebody who is prepared to listen and support them. They need to be encouraged to continue to live and take part in daily activities, as much as they can.

AIDS lowers the body’s defence system. Once a person has started to have symptoms she/he will slowly get weaker. But a person can live for a long time between infection, disease and death and it is important to make the best of this time.

Many people fear death as it is unknown.

People with HIV-infection need the opportunity to talk about their situation with somebody they can trust. Somebody who will listen. Being allowed to speak about fear and anxiety is often enough to ease the fear.

A person with AIDS is in need of both psychological support and physical care. As there is no cure available, the best care can often be given by relatives. At home she/he is in well-known social surroundings and feels more secure. A person with AIDS should:

- have plenty of rest

- get nutritious food and drink

- have contact with family and friends

- avoid alcohol and cigarettes

It is important that the family is well-informed about AIDS so that they are not scared of being with the relative. They should know how to protect themselves from the infection, by avoiding contact with infected body fluids.

Highly active antiretroviral therapy, commonly called HAART, is a combination of three or more drugs that can hold back the virus .

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