Normally, living organisms make RNA out of DNA but in retroviruses such as HIV, the step is in reverse that is it makes DNA out of RNA. HIV inserts its DNA copies into the DNA of the cells of the immune system, turning them into HIV factories and preventing them from protecting the body.
HIV is also a highly variable virus which hides in other parts of the body such as the lymphatic system and establishes strongholds beyond the reach of the immune system or drugs.
When a person is first infected by HIV there is a burst of activity as the virus multiplies. The immune system attempts to battle it by making antibodies. During this period, the viral load (the number of virus particles the body is carrying) is high and the infected person is highly infectious.
But a person’s HIV status can not be detected at this stage by conducting tests because sufficient antibodies have yet to be formed.
This is commonly called the window period and lasts from several weeks to about three months. It may take five years to ten years for an HIV positive to develop AIDS.
An infected person usually experiences an episode of illness at the end of the window period but this often resembles a simple bout of influenza and may pass unnoticed.
The symptoms could include lack of energy, fever and night sweat and diarrhea over a period of a more than a month.
The medicines which are used to fight HIV infection are known as anti-retroviral drugs (ARVs) and the treatment with them is known as anti-retroviral treatment. The medicine has been designed to interfere with HIV’s ability to reproduce inside the body.
Each class of medication stops the virus at different moments in its reproduction cycle. The current practice is to use a combination of drugs.
There are four primary ways by which HIV can be transmitted from an infected person to another.
(i) Blood (including menstrual blood)
(iii) Vaginal secretions
(iv) Breast milk
Blood contains the highest concentration of the virus followed by semen vaginal flood and by breast milk.
HIV does not survive easily outside the body, so it is not transmitted through toilets seats, by contact such as hugging, kissing, shaking hands or by sharing utensils while eating or drinking. Nor can it be transmitted through insects such as mosquitoes.
The first case of AIDS came to light in the early eighties. In 1981 a victim of AIDS was found. Actually the term AIDS was coined in 1982 and after much debate the virus causing AIDS was called HIV (Human Immuno Deficiency Virus).
In the first case of AIDS in India was reported in 1986 in Chennai. Today no Indian state is free from HIV. The National Intelligence Committee believes that there will be 20-25 million HIV positive people in India by 2010.
The National AIDS Control Organization (NACO) estimate that there are about 5.134 million people living with HIV AIDS in the country. Statistics reveal that it is the productive force between the ages of 15-44 that is most affected and comprises 87.7% of the HIV infectious in India.
Another fact is that more than 80% of the infectious are sexually transmitted. The virus has moved beyond high risk groups such as commercial sex workers and their clients into the wider population according to WHO as many as 16000 people become infected with the HIV each day.
The all-India picture is that the prevalence of AIDS cases in six states viz., Andhra Pradesh, Karnataka, Maharashtra and Tamil Nadu is above one percent as against national average of 0.7 percent.
The government has initiated HIV prevention activities in the very early stages of the epidemic. Helpings for information and assistance is being offered to the general population and patients.
The government though has maintained its commitment to prevention efforts, the country’s socio-economic status, traditional social norms, cultural myths on sex and sexuality, large scale migration and its huge population of marginalised people make it soft target.
The World Health Organisation set a target for India to provide anti retroviral therapy (ART) to 355000 people living with HIV/AIDS by the end of 2005 this was part of the global target set by WHO to provide ART to three million people by the end of 2005 popularly known as 3 by 5 initiative.
In India so far only about 15000 people living with HIV have been provided ART through the governmental ART centers.
None is safe from AIDS. The only way to save ourselves from AIDS is through knowledge and prevention. Since there is no cure for AIDS education and awareness generation is the most reliable method of prevention.
Awareness is also required to fight the stigma and social ostracism which arise out of ignorance of the spread of AIDS. There is need that NGOS, media should join hands with government agencies in the crusade against AIDS.
Some measures are suggested for preventing HIV infection. Since sex with infected person is the highest risk factor, the greatest need is to educate people to have safe sex by using condoms and multiple sexual partners.
Sharing needles can infect people, (a) Blood or blood products must be tested for HIV before transfusion, (b) As we known AIDS virus can be transmitted through an infected mother to her unborn child or during breast-feeding.
Red Ribbon Campaign:
(a) The AIDS Awareness Ribbon (or red ribbon) was conceived in 1991 by Visual AIDS, a New York base charity group of professionals. This ribbon is commonly seen adorning jacket labels and other articles of clothing as a symbol of solidarity and a commitment to fight against AIDS.
(b) According to WHO (World Health Organisation) as many as 16000 people become infected with the HIV each day. UN agencies estimate every minute five people aged 10-24 are being infected with HIV. This means seven million new infections each year.
(c) Besides a big part of our national campaigns should be directed towards school. Sex education should be given to teenagers and younger person in right context.
So take care to either sterilize the syringe with bleach solution or boil in water for more than ten minutes. The safest thing is to use only disposable syringes and needles. So make sure that every drop of blood to be used has been screened for AIDS virus and declared HIV negative.