The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a disease that causes infection which can eventually lead to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). For an individual living with AIDS, it could entail a full immune system shut down. A person can live for an average of 10 years if not treated at an early stage. HIV is one of the most common sexually transmitted diseases and can be acquired through sexual intercourse or the transfer of blood or other bodily fluids.
HIVn prevalence is most severe in southern Africa where 60% of the world’s total HIV infected population lives. Countries like Swaziland (7.2%), Lesotho (5.9%), Botswana (5.7%), Zimbabwe (4.8%) and South Africa (4.0%) are the top five countries on this list and they all lie in the vicinity of each other. It is estimated that over 33 million people in the world are affected with HIV and almost 90% of them have AIDS.
The most common way HIV is transmitted is engaging in sexual acts which may not be explicitly sexual intercourse. The transfer of bodily fluids from one partner to the other during sexual activities transmits the virus. HIV can also be spread by non-sterile needles or syringe use.
Other less common ways of HIV transmission are from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding. Rare cases of HIV transmission through contact of open wounds or HIV contaminated blood, being bitten by an HIV infected person or eating food previously bitten by an infected person have also been reported and verified.
With every passing year, the number of HIV infected individuals increases. This has led to large scale movements to raise awareness among the general public on how to primarily engage in safe sex activities. A basic information session can provide an individual with facts as well as debunk any myths.
The single major cause of HIV spread is the exchange of bodily fluids primarily during sexual acts. Employing accessible protection decreases HIV rates. Although medicine to prevent HIV is common, it is advised to get tested for STDs before engaging in sexual activities. Getting tested and treated for STDs timely can also save a person from HIV and subsequently AIDS. Another recommendation by health professionals is to never inject drugs and if absolutely necessary, use sterile injection equipment only. HIV or not, the same syringe should never be used a second time on any person including the original patient.
Once identified as an infected individual, the individual should limit sexual partners immediately and always use protection for all kinds of sexual activities. There is no definite cure for HIV but AntiRetroviral Therapy (ART) can control the virus and prolong the lifespan of the infected individual. ART involves taking prescribed medicine according to a strict schedule every day. ART is recommended for all people with HIV, regardless of how long they’ve had the virus or how healthy they are. If left untreated, HIV will attack the immune system and eventually progress to AIDS.