You have learnt about infectious diseases. For centuries, death from infectious diseases was common and whole populations were often affected. One of the remarkable achievements of modem civilisation has been prevention and control of the infectious dlseases of the past. However, we still seem defenceless against the rapid spread of AIDS, a deadly infectious disease of the century. AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Currently there is no cure or preventive vaccine for it.
The first case of AIDS was reported in the USA in 1981. However, it has now become a ltruly global epidemic with an estimated 22.6 million infected people. AIDS is reported from most of the regions of the world. It is prevalent in South America, Sub-Saharan Africa, Caribbean, Southeast Asia, Central Asia-and parts of Europe. The epidemiological data indicate that the prevalence of infection continues to increase from urban to rural area. AIDS is fatal because the virus specifically affects our immune system and disables it.You have learnt that our immune system is the defence force of the body and if it is damaged the body would lose the ability to protect itself from infection caused by bacteria, fungi, protozoa and viruses. ADS virus severely damages the immune system and therefore the infected person is vulnerable to other infections. Usually these secondary infections (termed as opportunistic infections) cause death in AIDS patient For example, AIDS patients generally suffer from tuberculosis, which is now most prevalent infection associated with HIV. A key to controlling HIV infection is to understand the routes of its spread. The following are the modes of HIV transmission
1. Sexual contact - Intimate unprotected sexual contact between man and woman (heterosexual) or between man and man (homosexual), when one of the partners is HJV infected.
2. Blood - Transmission from an HTV infected source to the bloodstream of urmfected person (transfusion of blood or blood products contaminated with HIV, use of needles and syringes stained with HIV infected blood).
3. Vertical transmission - Transmission from infected mother to fetus during pregnancy (perinatcil period), during birth or during breast- feeding.
AIDS is not a contagious disease, but due to ignorance, several prejudices about the disease are created. AIDS victims are being isolated and are discriminated by individual and society. You must remember that AIDS does not spread like many other air-borne or water- borne infections. It is important that we understand certain facts about HIV. ITIV is quite fragile in'the external environment and the virus dies quickly when exposed to room temperature or light. It is quickly inactivated by contact with soap and water. It is important to understand that it cannot be transmitted through air, water or vector or casual contact like shaking hands, hugging, dry kissing, sharing eating utensils, sharing towels, using same gadgets or toilet seat etc. Therefore living with victims of AIDS i.e., breathmg the sama air or eating from same plate does not spread infection.