World AIDS Day is held on the 1st December each year and is an opportunity for people worldwide to unite in the fight against HIV, show their support for people living with HIV and to remember people who have died.
Basic facts about HIV
HIV is a virus (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) that gradually attacks immune system, which is our body’s natural defense against illness. A person infected with HIV finds it harder to fight off infections and diseases.
The virus destroys a type of white blood cell called a T-helper cell and makes copies of itself inside them.
There are many different strains of HIV – someone who is infected may carry various different strains in their body. They are classified into types, with many groups and subtypes. The two main types are:
HIV-1: the most common type found worldwide
HIV-2: this is found mainly in Western Africa, with some cases in India and Europe.
With early diagnosis and effective antiretroviral treatment, people with HIV can live normal, healthy life.
If left untreated, it can take around 10- 15 years for AIDS to develop, which is when HIV has severely damaged the immune system.
HIV is found in an infected person’s body fluids like semen, blood, breast milk and vaginal and anal fluids.
HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.
The most common ways for getting infected with HIV is by having unprotected sex, by using infected needles, syringes or other drug-taking equipment (blood transmission), or from mother-to-child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
Basic facts about AIDS
AIDS(Acquired immune deficiency syndrome) is a syndrome caused by the HIV virus. It is when a person’s immune system is too weak to fight off many infections, and develops when the HIV infection is very advanced.
This is the last stage of HIV infection where the body can no longer defend itself and may develop various diseases, infections and if left untreated, death. However, with the right treatment and support, people can live long and healthy lives with HIV.
To do this, it is especially important to take treatment correctly and deal with any possible side-effects.
Someone with AIDS may develop a wide range of other health conditions like pneumonia, thrush, fungal infections and TB and may be an increased risk of developing other life-limiting conditions, including cancer and brain illnesses.
This year, in advance of World AIDS Day, on 29th November 2016, in Geneva- WHO has released new guidelines on HIV self-testing to improve access to and uptake of HIV diagnosis. According to WHO progress report, lack of HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the Organization’s recommendation that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART).
The report reveals about the number of people with HIV currently taking ART, those unable to access treatment and the majority of which are unaware of their HIV positive status. The report reveals many of them are at higher risk of HIV infection and often find it difficult to access existing testing services; stressing the need for HIV self-testing, for many more people to know their HIV status and find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.
HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood- finger-pricks to discover their status in a private, convenient setting for faster results. Those with positive results are advised to seek confirmatory tests at health clinics.
WHO is supporting implementation of self-testing in many countries with many more countries are considering this innovative approach. HIV self-testing is a way to reach more people with undiagnosed HIV, and provide a step forward to allow individuals, diagnose people earlier before they become sick, bring services closer to where people live, and create demand for HIV testing, under WHO directives.