Today is World AIDS Day, a day that is to be given much importance and to be taken cognizance of, all the more because it is one of the most deadly diseases known to man in modern times. AIDS is caused by HIV or the Human Immunodeficiency Virus that attacks the immune system and destroys it, leaving the victim helpless against all infections and other diseases, which in turn leads to death and lower life expectancies. On this day here are a few facts that you may not know about HIV and AIDS and how you can prepare yourself and those around you better. Because in the case of AIDS, prevention is the best cure.
- The deadly virus has been traced back to first being present in certain apes; HIV-1 to Chimpanzees and HIV-2 to African Monkeys. In fact, it is not very clear how the humans contracted it. They suspect it is from the food habits of certain tribespeople who found monkey meat a delicacy. It could have been transferred by a monkey bite or through the blood getting in contact with a wound on the human during the hunting process.
- The virus cloaked in what looks like a friendly layer of carbohydrates gets past our immunity without suspicion and then goes on to wreck havoc. The virus destroys the immunity system, thereby allowing other diseases and infections to freely attack the body eventually taking a toll on the life expectancy and life quality of the person.
- While it is not truly possible to be completely immune to the virus, certain people have shown tendencies and immunity that helps them not progress from contracting HIV to developing AIDS. This is caused by genetic mutation, such as the CCR5-delta 32 primarily found in Scandinavians. This is being studied further in the hopes of finding a cure that mimics the gene.
- Over 40 million people across the world are infected with AIDS. Nearly 2.1 million of those are under the age of 15. So far early detection is the only thing that can improve the quality of life and reduce complications for those infected with the virus.
- HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer. On an average, around 25 million people world over have died of AIDS. The numbers are unfortunately only growing. One of the contributing factors is that people are also tending to take the disease more lightly now, especially because the life expectancy of those infected have been prolonged with modern medication. However, this thought is extremely dangerous and people need to be educated and informed better.
- No prizes for guessing this one, but AIDS is the most studied disease in history. Since its arrival in Africa, it took only ten years for HIV to spread across the rest of the world. This has sparked in equal measure concern, outrage, conspiracy theories and of course the much-needed research studies.
- The country that has been worst affected is South Africa, which as per studies has more people with HIV than any other country in the world, at 5.9 million. The next on the list of red zones are Asia and South East Asia. This part of the world has reported for over 4 million cases or 12% of the population. If you are wondering how many of these cases are traced back to our country, let us inform you that it is at nearly 2.4 million in India.
- The most common and potent form of contracting the infection is by exchanging body fluids through sex. Women are known to be far more susceptible to contracting the infection than men. The second most common cause is mother transferring the infection to her unborn child, followed by usage of used medical syringes and other drug-injecting equipment or cases of blood contamination. Mosquitoes, bed bugs and other such insects do not carry HIV, there is also no reported case of HIV infections caused by tattoo needles. The disease does not spread through using the same vessels, saliva and skin contact, The only known case of someone contracting HIV through kissing is in the case of a couple where the man had HIV and both partners had severe gum disease.
On this day, we encourage our readers to read more about the dreaded virus and spread the word on the right precautions to take. Also, treat those affected with respect and care and do not give in to myths, remember those with AIDS need our help and support not misinformed and insensitive gestures.