World AIDS Day
- The world marks AIDS Day on December 1 to highlight the work done to eliminate the epidemic. “End inequalities. End AIDS” is the theme of World AIDS Day 2021.
- This day is also observed to extend support to those who have to live with the life-threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV).
- This virus attacks the immune system and reduces its resistance to other diseases, thereby putting the life of the patient at risk.
- World AIDS Day was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland.
- As per World Health Organization's (WHO) latest data, 3.77 crore people were living with AIDS in 2020.
- Though the world has made significant progress since the virus was first discovered in 1984, WHO said, important targets for 2020 were not met.
- The WHO added that ""division, disparity and disregard"" for human rights are some of the major failures that allowed HIV to become and remain a global health crisis.
- The situation has been exacerbated by COVID-19, making the lives of many people living with HIV more challenging.
- World AIDS Day is important because it reminds people that the HIV virus is very much prevalent among us and we need to remain vigilant against it.
- This day helps remind people in authority that there is still a vital need to raise awareness and money, fight prejudices and educate people about it.
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- HIV attacks CD4, a type of White Blood Cell (T cells) in the body’s immune system. T cells are those cells that move around the body detecting anomalies and infections in cells.
- After entering body, HIV multiplies itself and destroys CD4 cells, thus severely damaging the human immune system. Once this virus enters the body, it can never be removed.
- CD4 count of a person infected with HIV reduces significantly. In a healthy body, CD4 count is between 500- 1600, but in an infected body, it can go as low as 200.
- Weak immune system makes a person prone to opportunistic infections and cancer. It becomes difficult for a person infected with this virus to recover from even a minor injury or sickness.
- By receiving treatment, severe form of HIV can be prevented.
- HIV is transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, anal fluids and breast milk.
- To transmit HIV, bodily fluids must contain enough of the virus. A person with ‘Undetectable HIV’ cannot transfer HIV to another person even after transfer of fluids.
- ‘Undetectable HIV’ is when the amount of HIV in the body is so low that a blood test cannot detect it. Treatment can make this possible. But regular monitoring of the same through blood tests is also required.
- Around 80% of people infected with HIV develop a set of symptoms known as Acute Retroviral Syndrome, around 2-6 weeks after the virus enters into body.
- The early symptoms include fever, chills, joint pains, muscle aches, sore throat, sweats particularly at night, enlarged glands, a red rash, tiredness, weakness, unintentional weight loss and thrush.
- A person can carry HIV even without experiencing any symptoms for a long time. During this time, the virus continues to develop and causes immune system and organ damage.
- Since the beginning of epidemic, more than 70 million people have got infected with HIV virus and about 35 million have died.
- Globally, 36.9 million People were living with HIV at the end of 2017. Of these, 1.8 million were children under 15 years of age.
- According to Global HIV & AIDS statistics, only 59% of those infected with HIV are receiving the antiretroviral drugs.
- The African Region is the most affected region with 1 in 25 adults living with HIV.
- As per the latest HIV estimates report (2019) of the Government, India is estimated to have around 23.49 lakh people living with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in 2019.
- The HIV epidemic has an overall decreasing trend in country with estimated annual New HIV infections declining by 37% between 2010 and 2019.
- There are no dedicated hospitals for the treatment of HIV/AIDS patients. However, under the National AIDS Control Programme (NACP) of the Government, as on July 2020, there are 570 Anti-retroviral treatment (ART) Centers and 1264 Link ART Centers.
- Anti-Retroviral Therapy:
- It is a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing.
- The therapy helps in protecting CD4 cells thus keeping the immune system strong enough to fight off the disease.
- It, besides reducing the risk of transmission of HIV, also helps in stopping its progression to AIDS (a spectrum of conditions caused by infection due to HIV).
- Stem Cell Transplant:
- Under this, an infected person is treated with stem cell transplant from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor CCR5.
- CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1. People who have mutated copies of CCR5 are resistant to HIV-1 virus strain.
- It has been reported that till now, only two people have been cured of HIV by experts using this method of treatment. The first person is Timothy Ray Brown (Berlin Patient) who was cured in 2007 and the second is known as London Patient, who just got cured of HIV.
- The difference in the treatment of both patients is that the Berlin Patient was given two transplants and he underwent total body irradiation while the London Patient received just one transplant and also less intensive chemotherapy.
- Researchers find this method very complicated, expensive and risky.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- It is a set of symptoms or syndrome caused by HIV. But it is not necessary that a person infected with HIV will definitely develop AIDS.
- A person infected with HIV is likely to develop symptoms of AIDS over a period of time when his/er immune system is too weak to fight HIV infection.
- This is the last stage of HIV when the infection is very advanced and if left untreated will lead to death.
- A person with HIV whose CD4 count falls below 200 per cubic millimetre is diagnosed with AIDS.
- The risk of HIV progressing to AIDS varies widely between individuals and depends on many factors including:
- The age of the Individual
- The body’s ability to defend against HIV
- Access to high quality sanitary healthcare
- Presence of other infections
- Individual’s genetic resistance to certain strains of HIV
- Drug-Resistant strains of HIV
- Prevention includes safe sex, testing and counselling for HIV, voluntary medical male circumcision among other things.