Since 1981, when AIDS was first discovered, it became a pandemic, spreading through human populations around the world. In the last 25 years, it is estimated to have killed 25 million people around the world. AIDS stands for Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a disease of deficiency in the human immune system, which is acquired during the lifetime of an individual. AIDS is caused by HIV that belongs to a group of viruses known as retroviruses which are known to have an envelope enclosing the RNA genome.
The HIV infection is usually transmitted through any one of four ways: Through sexual contact with an HIV-infected person, transfusion of infected blood, sharing infected needles and from an infected mother to a child through the placenta.
It is not transmitted by mere touch. Therefore, it is advisable that HIV/AIDS infected people are not isolated from their family and society for their physical and psychological well-being.
The incubation period of AIDS, ranges from a couple of months to many years. Once the HIV virus is inside the body, it enters the macrophages where RNA the genome of the virus replicates to form viral DNA, aided by enzyme reverse transcriptase. The viral DNA takes over the host cell’s DNA and directs infected cells to produce virus particles. At the same time, HIV enters helper T-lymphocytes and produces progeny viruses, which when released into the blood attack other helper T-lymphocytes in the body of the infected person. The infected individuals suffer from diarrhoea, fever and weight loss. They become so immune-deficient due to the loss of helper T-lymphocytes that they are vulnerable to infections.
The ELISA test is commonly used to diagnose AIDS whereas anti-retroviral drugs are used to treat AIDS. However, drugs can only prolong the life of an AIDS patient; death is inevitable due to the gradual loss of immunity. Since AIDS has no cure, prevention is the key to keep it at bay. It is important to ensure that blood banks have safe blood and only disposable needles and syringes are used. Efforts must be made to control drug abuse. Sex education must be imparted to everyone..
In India NACO, is working to create awareness about AIDS so that the disease does not spread due to ignorance. Therefore, though AIDS is caused due to acquired deficiency in immunity due to ignorance and unsafe lifestyle practices, AIDS patients need our help and sympathy rather than our disapproval.