With more than forty one million new infections reported across the globes and millions of lives lost, HIV and AIDS has become an increasingly overwhelming global pandemic. Statistics indicate this pandemic contributes over 68% of total deaths reported at the start of each day with Sub-Saharan Africa being the region that is most stricken. While there have been widespread campaigns carried out relating to the pandemic have been done in the last 3 decades, new infections are being increasingly reported with developing nations taking the lead because of the significant structural differences stimulating increase of the disease within societies (Gilbert, 1012). While HIV and AIDS proves to be a growing threat to the health of a large section of global populations, both the private and public sectors have joined efforts via mobilization of resources in order to fight the plague which has continually been labelled a global crisis.
Understanding HIV and AIDS
HIV is a term that defines a virus commonly referred to as the Human Immunodeficiency Virus which enter the human body, replicating itself to multiply as such, causing a disease known as AIDS. The human immune system is infected and weakened as such, making the body vulnerable to attacks from all kinds of opportunistic infections and diseases. AIDS, which is commonly referred to as Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a disease that is caused by HIV virus and arises from advanced stages of the infectious virus (Jeremy, 2010). Mainly, it is manifested through major reduction of the body’s protection ability especially when immune-cell count drops below 200. Currently, no cure exists for the pandemic and people who are infected rely on antiretroviral drugs in order to boost the ability of their body’s protection and hence, increase their life span.
HIV is transmitted through unprotected sex relations with an individual who has the virus already, contact with body fluids that contain the virus and from a mother to her young one especially during or before delivery or at times while breastfeeding. Blood is one of the fluids through which the virus is transferred from one individual to another and the development arises when blood of the individual infected with the virus comes into contact with the blood of an individual without the virus. This can happen when the individual affected gives blood, they share sharp objects with a person not affected or during accidents when blood of an infected person enter into the body of uninfected persons through body parts exposed. Virginal and semen fluid are a channel of HIV transmission especially in the course of exposed sexual union between a party that is infected and one who is not infected (Mary, 2009). The breast milk of a mother who is infected also transmits the virus to a child during breastfeeding.
AIDS results from later stages of HIV infection especially when the body protection system of an individual is fatally impaired as such, making it easy for certain opportunistic infections and diseases to weaken and attack the individual. Individuals affected with the virus might show various symptoms and signs depending on the degree and stage of infection. Research however indicates there are many individuals affected with the virus yet, they never show any symptoms and this is mostly because the virus at that point is not widespread yet and the immune system is still strong. This changes with time though as the virus continued to get replicated and overwhelms the body’s system. In the course of the window stage, which is the first months after infection, the body has several signs which are similar to those of moderate viral infection and flu including muscle pains, chest pain, fever, irritation and exhaustion (Stanton, 2008). HIV infection latency phase is a period where an individual is able to live for close to a decade or in some cases more without portraying any signs of illness. During this period, the virus is just moderately active and in most cases, there are no symptoms of HIV infection seen. The symptoms of AIDS will appear during the late HIV infection stages where white blood cells are already impaired and the body is not able to withstand opportunistic infections. These symptoms might include emaciation, prolonged cough, joints swelling, diarrhea, and spots on the skin, fever, fatigue and psychological disorders which range from stress to depression (Michael, 2012).
HIV and AIDS prevalence in the US dates to the 1980’s when young men got diagnosed with a disease with similar signs as those seen in people infected with the virus. Initially, the virus was associated with gays accounting for 50 percent of all new cases reported but as time went by, it was found the Virus infected all kinds of people. According to statistics, there are over 1 million HIV infection cases reported in the UK with over one fifth of those infected person not aware they have the deadly virus. Every year in the US, the number of new infections is estimated to be over 50,000 and this has remained static since minimal variations have been recorded in the region. Statistics have also equally recorded over more than half a million deaths from the time when the scourge was reported in the US. According to research, there are specific groups of people who report high infection cases than others and mostly they include bisexual, gays and men who have sex relations with other men (MSM). Also, there has been an overall rise in the rate of infection among MSM in which case the number has risen by 13% from the period 2008 to 2010 alone. Though MSM represents a mere 5 percent of the US male population, they make up 80 percent of all the new infections among makes and about 50% of the infections. Transmission cases among people in this category accounts for the largest number of new infections which in 2010 was estimated at 11,000 people. While there has been report on cases of death throughout the country, MSM are mostly affected and they account for at least half of all deaths caused by HIV and AIDS.
Equally, studies indicate Hispanics and black Americans are adversely affected as well by HIV in the US. Black Americans constitute more than 12.5% of total deaths resulting from the pandemic (Stanton, 2008). The Hispanics who account for over 16.1% of US total population also report as many new infections cases which by 2010 were estimated at 20%. While there are disparities between rate of infections among females and males, the rate of infections among Hispanic is estimated at 3 times the rate of infection among ordinary white Americas. To date, deaths of Hispanics diagnosed with the virus is recorded to 100,000 people.
Though tireless efforts have been directed towards addressing the issue of HIV across the globe, HIV/AIDS pandemic continues to threaten stability of global health sector. Majority of the HIV cases reported indicate the poorest regions of the globe are the most affected and they account for over 96% of all reported cases. The scourge continues to affect a large percentage of people across the globe and this in turn affects economic growth in these countries and the health of individuals. It is clear that most severely hit by HIV infections suffer from severe instances of contagious disease because a large section of people affected do not have access to proper healthcare. According to Gilbert (1012) signs of hope are present despite the numerous challenges faced since many countries are recording declines in new infections rate as preventive measures are constantly put into place.
While at the dawn of every day there are new infections reported, several practices have been adopted as well in order to reduce development of the virus hence curb risk of viral multiplication. Although scholars are yet to make discoveries of effective ways the HIV/AIDS plague can be eliminated, refrainment from sexual relations and use of protective devices during intercourse aid in reducing the risk of infection (Mary, 2009). Consistent and correct use of protective devices which includes the use of condoms also reduces risk of virus transmission by 90%. People should also refrain from sharing equipment such as razorblades, needles, syringes as well as other sharp tools to avoid infections. Expectant mothers are also supposed to seek medical advice from medical practitioners who are qualified on how to better protect young ones during and upon birth.
Though medical practitioners are yet to discover the cure for HIV and AIDS pandemic, self-care of great importance to reduce impact of opportunistic regular infections. Proper nutrition also aids in boosting the immune system by ensuring availability of important nutrients crucial for the body to function properly. Safe sexual practices are also just as important as they prevent re-infection especially by HIV virus strains that are fatal. Avoiding abuse of substance also helps individuals to make judgments that are sober and avoid behaviors that are risky which could interfere with treatment.
While it is true HIV/AIDS does not have any cure, there are drugs which aid in controlling further damage caused by the virus. Consistent and correct use of antiretroviral drugs also helps in controlling further weakening of immune system in order to make it possible for an individual to live longer and be strong. According to Jeremy 2010, there are different categories of these drugs availed it he market and these are used differently according to the HIV infection stage. While these drugs can be used separately to boost the resistance of the body against possible re-infection resulting from replication of the virus, patients might opt to use a combination of different drugs to control the level of virus circulating in the body.
While it is evident individuals infected with the HIV virus can ultimately get full blown AIDS if they fail to access quality treatment and care, majority tend to be reluctant to use medication immediately after they discover they have the virus. Though the decision of seeking medical care ranges from one individual to another, taking medication as soon as one discovers their status aids in managing the CD4 T cell count as well as the subsequent health of the infected individual. Individuals who are infected also can use therapeutic and preventive vaccines in order to aid in management of the future and present health status through reduction of opportunistic infections (Michael, 2012). Also, they can seek doctors who are knowledgeable and with the capability of providing constant care and with quality skills on how they can change the medication consistently in order to fit with their situation.
The pandemic of HIV and AIDS continues to gain significance as new infections are reported each day. Although there have been campaigns purposed at addressing the issue held in the last 3 decades, evidence indicates there are new development which continue to attract attention of both the public and private sectors which continue to commit efforts and resources to addressing the new ‘global crisis’.
Gilbert, D. (1012), African American Women and HIV/AIDS: Critical Responses, Westport, CT, Praeger.
Jeremy, S. (2010), HIV/AIDS and the Rest of the Global Health Agenda, Bulletin of the Global Health Agenda, 84(12): 45-102.
Mary, D. (2009), Risk and Protective Factors for HIV/AIDS in Native Americans: Implications for Preventive Intervention, Journal of Social Work, 54(2): 45-124.
Michael, H. (2012), Evolution of a Virus: The Framing of HIV/ AIDS in Social Work Journals, Journal of Social Work. 57(4): 99-200.
Stanton, T. (2008), HIV/AIDS and Information, London, ASLIB-IMI.