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Some basic facts about HIV/AIDS

"It is believed that by the end of 20th century there will be more than 40 million people infected with HIV all over the world and India would be surpassing all others with highest number of cases (about 10-20 million). All may not be infected but will definitely be impacted indirectly by the pandemic. Therefore it is the responsibility of every citizen of India to have complete knowledge about this disease".

It is mostly due to lack of knowledge about AIDS and prejudice that people have fear from the victims of this disease. Because of fear of social stigma, AIDS patients and their relatives hide their HIV status. Many doctors (due to fear of getting infection) also discriminate these patients. There is danger of contracting AIDS for everybody and only thing that can prevent us from contracting is to have complete knowledge about the disease.

"HIV / AIDS is Difficult if you get, Impossible to cure, but Easy to Prevent"

AIDS is:

Acquired – something contracted by certain acts

Immune – built in body defense system to fight off infectious diseases

Deficiency – lack of

Syndrome – cluster of symptoms that are Characteristic for a disease

HIV is:

Human – isolated to the human species

Immuno-Deficiency – Lacking the ability to fight off infectious diseases

Virus – a disease causing micro-organism

How HIV infects?

AIDS is caused by HIV, a very fragile RNA type of retrovirus, which like any other microorganism lives inside the living cells of the body. Outside body it doesn’t survive for more than half and hour.

There are two types of HIV virus, i.e. HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 is present all over the world. In India more than 80% people are affected by it. HIV-2 is mainly found in Africa and also present in India. Some people are infected with both the viruses. People only infected with HIV-2 live longer than those infected with HIV-1 and chances of transmission of HIV-2 from mother to child are very rare.

Once in body, the HIV attacks CD4 type of White Blood Cells (WBC’s) in blood and gradually kills them over a period of time.


Once the CD4 cells are destroyed, our body’s ability to fight infections goes down and the person suffers from lots of infections.


This stage of HIV infection is called full blown AIDS and it is the fag end of life. It takes a couple of years for AIDS to develop and till that time infected person usually looks healthy.


Infected person’s blood, semen, vaginal fluid is rich in HIV. However tears, saliva, sweat or urine does not pose any danger?

HIV is transmitted by:

Unprotected sexual intercourse with infected person (either heterosexual or homosexual)

Transfusion of infected blood or blood products

Infected mother to her baby during pregnancy, birth process and through breast – feeding

Use of infected needles and instruments without sterilization or sharing of needles and syringes by HIV drug addicts


There is no risk of contracting HIV infection in daily routine activities and by casual contact with HIV positive person.

AIDS virus is not transmitted through:

Embracing or kissing (social)

Touching hand shaking or hugging

· Sharing bathroom or toilet

· Coughing, saliva, sweat or sneezing

· Eating together or sharing utensils

· Swimming pools

· Sharing clothes

· Mosquito bite, Insect bite or houseflies

· Caring for the Patient


An HIV infected person initially looks normal and perfectly healthy. The symptoms of AIDS develop after few years and include: -

  • Long standing, unexplained fever ( > 1 month)
  • Unexplained diarrhea (> 1 month)
  • Persistent cough (> 1 month)

  • Persistent unexplained fatigue and weight loss of more than 5 kg within short period

  • White blotches in the mouth or on tongue


You cannot make out by looking at person’s face if he or she is infected with HIV or not. The infected person appears perfectly healthy and feels good for few years. The infection can only be detected by conducting blood test. Example the ELISA HIV antibody test. If someone is diagnosed to be HIV positive by ELISA and confirmed by second test (done on different blood samples and by different methods) the person is said to be Seropositive.


This is a simple but rapid test to diagnose the HIV status of a person and the result can be given within half an hour. Chances of a false positive report are rare in this test, yet a positive report should be confirmed by doing ELISA test.


This is a specialized and expensive confirmatory test. This test is done only to confirm a HIV positive ELISA or SPOT test report. Ever since the standard of ELISA and SPOT test has improved the role of this test seems to be very little in diagnosis of HIV infection.


These are expensive tests and only those affording patients who are willing to start anti-HIV (antiretroviral) drugs go for these tests. It is mandatory to do pre-test and post-test counseling for all the patients respectively.



  • Sympathetic attitude, family and society support.
  • Patient should be advised to take adequate rest and take nutritious diet, rich in proteins and vitamins.
  • Patient should be advised never to donate blood or organs of their body.
  • Patient should be advised to use condom with their sexual partner, even though it is their own spouse.
  • As far as possible patient should avoid eating outside food.
  • Patient should be encouraged to give up all harmful habits like smoking, alcohol or chewing pan or tobacco.
  • Patient should drink boiled water or mineral water as far as possible.
  • Patient should be advised to do regular exercise or atleast go for a morning walk.

If patients follow above general care tips they can live few years longer.


  • Early treatment of common problems like fever, cough, diarrhea etc. from family doctor is very much advisable.
  • Early detection and treatment of opportunistic infections like TB etc. are a must.


PREVENTION IS THE ONLY CURE FOR HIV/AIDS there are no medicines to cure HIV

Prevention is simple easy and the only answer we have got today unless we find some cure. HIV can be easily prevented by adopting simple measures such as:


The only safe sex is ‘no sex’ before marriage and outside of marriage. Be faithful to only one partner (spouse).


Judiciously use blood when required and use only pre-tested HIV free blood or blood product.

Be careful never to use infected blood


Insist your doctors and nurses to use sterile or better still, disposable needles and instruments.


Before taking any major step in life like marriage or having child, ascertain that you and your partner are HIV free.


Never share your shaving blades with anyone. Insist your barber to use only new blade during shaving or hair cut. (After all there is a risk of getting infection from a saloon also)


It is always better to see a qualified and specialist doctor in HIV/AIDS area. Take medicines only under the right supervision of the doctor.


Remember AIDS does not discriminate between caste, creed, race, religion, and educational or social status. Prevention of AIDS is our joint responsibility. Education and awareness is the only weapon in our hand. Let us accept the challenge to fight against AIDS. We must support and care for the people with HIV / AIDS with compassion and understanding.

The Do’s and Don’ts:

When dealing with a person living with HIV/AIDS (PLWHA’s), the bottom line is, you must treat them the way you would like to be treated if you were infected with HIV.


  • More than sympathize, empathize with them.
  • Assure them of family and social support.
  • Allow them to be a part of the family as he/she was prior to contracting the disease.
  • Encourage them to get back to their work as soon as soon as he/she is physically fit. HIV infection doesn’t require special rest.
  • Keep them engaged in some activity, as being idle can lead them to depression and desperation.
  • Make efforts to reduce their stress and strain.
  • Encourage them to exercise, which can help them in prolonging their life.
  • Provide them with a high protein, high vitamin diet and clean potable water preferably boiled or atleast mineral water.
  • Convince them to overcome all addictions such as tobacco, cigarettes, alcohol or other psychotropic/recreational drugs.
  • Register them with a health care facility for regular check-up's and follow ups.
  • Immediately treat even minor ailments. However, it is not necessary to disclose their HIV status to the family physician.
  • Dispose off blood stained tampons and bandages properly, either by flushing or burning them.
  • Advice them to use safe sex (condoms) with their sex partner (spouse), even if partner is already HIV positive.
  • Pursue them at any appropriate time, to build up their will power.
  • Provide foster care to the affected children.
  • Help fight the discrimination meted out to them by hospitals, doctors, employers and society at large.
  • Educate the family members and friends about HIV/AIDS, if they already know the HIV status of the patient.


  • Don’t be judgmental towards the infected, it doesn’t help.
  • Don’t try to probe as to how, when and where the person contracted the disease.
  • Don’t make them feel guilty.
  • Don’t discriminate them in their home/workplace
  • Don’t separate them from spouse or children, since they are the best supporters for the infected. It is essential for them to spend quality time together with the family.
  • Don’t use gloves in feeding the infected person or to wipe off his saliva, sweat, nasal secretions and tears.
  • Don’t share razors, tooth brush and other sharp objects with infected person or for that matter with any body else.
  • Don’t wash their clothes separately; this doesn’t infect others with the virus.
  • Don’t disclose the HIV status of infected person to friends, employer and colleagues.
  • Don’t humiliate the infected person, his/her spouse or children.
  • Don’t scare them of suffering and death. In the terminal stage, prepare them for a peaceful death.
  • Don’t become vulnerable to the fake claims, false cures, witch hunters and the like.
  • Don’t spend the entire available money limit in the first bout of illness; it may be the first of such illnesses in the pipeline. Make a proper planning of your spending capability.
  • Don’t take many relatives to visit the patient in the hospital.
  • Don’t test for HIV repeatedly, once the presence of infection is established it remains there forever.

Say NO! to premarital or extramarital sex