The fact that it has its own ribbon of solidarity is proof enough that HIV/AIDS continues to be one of mankind’s biggest health scares. Despite its worldwide prevalence, there are several myths and misconceptions around it. How much do you really know about the disease?
HIV vs AIDS
The most common mistake people make is using the terms HIV and AIDS interchangeably. HIV (short for Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is the virus, while AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome) is the actual condition, the final stage of affliction caused by the virus.
As the name itself suggests, the HIV virus cripples the immune system, spreading across three stages or phases.
In the earliest stage, it’s quite easy to ignore the apparent symptoms of the virus, considering they overlap with symptoms of the common influenza virus such as fever, sore throat, headache and a running nose.
However, if not managed within this stage or the second (latency) phase, the virus progresses to its most virulent form, AIDS.
At this point, an individual’s immune system is practically crippled to non-existent, leaving the body vulnerable to extreme diseases and conditions, ranging from retinitis, encephalitis, meningitis to tumours, pneumonia, tuberculosis and chronic diarrhoea. Average life-expectancy after this stage is often as low as 1-3 years.
The Staggering Stats
While the HIV virus has been around for a while now, it has slipped under the radar since the onset of the 2010s and remains just as lethal across the globe. According to WHO reports, there are still 36.7 million HIV-positive people in the world.
India ranks third on this list, alongside several other countries with a greater average of low-middle income groups. The last accurate approximation was 20.9 lakh people afflicted with the virus in our country, with a staggering 86% of this populace in the age group of 15-49.
Dr Satish Chandra, advisor to Credihealth, was recently quoted saying, “The HIV epidemic in India is concentrated, with high prevalence among high-risk groups, moderate prevalence among bridge populations, and low prevalence among the general population.”
Recent Developments: A Silver Lining
Things are not as bleak as they may seem. While 22 million of the 36.7 million people diagnosed with HIV are yet to gain access to proper treatment facilities, 2016 was a turning point in humanity’s fight against the disease.
Worldwide funding towards researching a cure rose to an approximate figure of $210 million last year. Moreover, it can be widely bookmarked as the year of the first recorded cure of the disease, with the recipient receiving stem-cell transplant from an HIV-immune donor.
Bolstered by innumerable successes in 2016, it appears that HIV is no longer a death sentence. Through consistent anti-retroviral therapy (ART), it could now be a manageable disease. WHO’s recently declared goal of total eradication of the virus by 2030 no longer seems like a far-fetched idea.
Join the Fight Against AIDS
It’s clear that the next decade will be crucial in determining how the fight against AIDS will go. As individuals, we could all join this war by keeping ourselves updated and take up activism and volunteering roles too.
India also plays an active role in the fight against AIDS, with several activist groups and NGOs campaigning and innovating to undertake activities to help those afflicted.
If you wish to join the fight, enrol with one of the several NGOs doing their best to rid the country of the virus. Here are a few you could get involved with:
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