Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a viral infection that attacks the immune system, making it vulnerable to other infections and diseases. If untreated it can lead to Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS), wherein the body's immune cells (CD4 count) are very low and have opportunistic infections.
Globally, an estimated 39 million people are living with HIV and an estimated 40 million lives have been lost so far due to AIDS-related illnesses worldwide. As per the Indian HIV estimation report 2020, the prevalence of HIV in adults was 0.22%, with an estimated 23 lakh HIV-infected people in India, with around 32000 AIDS-related deaths.
Causes of HIV:
HIV is transmitted by unprotected sex, injection drug use and pregnant mother-to-child transmission, according to Dr Kartik Vedula, Consultant Infectious Diseases, Yashoda Hospitals Hyderabad. The risk factors for HIV infection include unprotected sex, injection drug use, commercial sex workers, multiple sex partners, men having sex with men, prior STDs, and tattoos.
Symptoms of HIV:
Initial HIV infection may present with flu-like symptoms, rash and muscle pains, but many individuals remain asymptomatic. Patients may experience persistent fever, fatigue, weight loss, diarrhoea, cough, neck masses and opportunistic infections (tuberculosis & pneumonia). So, it is crucial to consult an Infectious Disease Physician for early diagnosis and proper treatment.
Treatment for HIV:
While there is no cure for HIV, Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) has revolutionized HIV treatment. ART suppresses viral replication and prevents disease progression. With proper treatment and regular monitoring by Infectious Disease Physicians, morbidity due to the disease is reduced and people can lead healthy lives with life expectancy similar to those without HIV.
We can prevent HIV transmission with Safe sex practices (condom use, avoiding multiple partners, treatment of STD), injection drug abuse, Pre-exposure prophylaxis for people with high risk of HIV and HIV testing.
Now, let us unite to fight the stigma associated with HIV, and eradicate this devastating disease.