Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS has rapidly become the number one killer in the world. In 2009, 33.3 million people were living with AIDS all over the world. In order to control this epidemic, it is necessary to adopt certain preventive strategies. Safe sex, use of condoms, not sharing needles and avoiding contamination from infected persons in various ways are some of the necessary strategies to prevent AIDS. Naturally, a number of myths have grown up surrounding AIDS like that only homosexual relationship can cause AIDS and many more. It is necessary to spread awareness and let people know about the real facts regarding AIDS in order to control the spread of this disease.
AIDS is caused by the infection by a virus called HIV. At present, it is the top killer in the world with almost 34 million people living with AIDS. In 2011, 2.5 million people became newly infected with the virus. In view of the virulence of the disease, it is necessary to adopt effective strategies to prevent the spread of AIDS.
Strategies to prevent AIDS
In order to put effective strategies to prevent AIDS in place, it is necessary to know how this infection spreads. This can happen in the following ways:
- Unprotected sex with a HIV infected person causes AIDS. The virus is conveyed by semen or vaginal fluid.
- If the blood of an infected person enters the bloodstream of a non infected person, the latter may get infected with HIV.
- If a woman infected with HIV gets pregnant, the disease can be communicated to the child through the placenta or by breastfeeding after birth.
Apart from these, there are no other ways in which AIDS can be transmitted. Hence, avoiding any of these circumstances will help to prevent AIDS. This means:
- Practice safe sex at all times. The best option is to use condoms for vaginal intercourse or even oral sex.
- Never share a needle with anybody else. Always use a sterile needle.
- If you are HIV positive and have given birth, avoid breastfeeding your child.
Some tips to prevent the spread of AIDS
The following tips will prove helpful in implementing the strategies of preventing the transmission of AIDS:
- Practice a monogamous relationship with a non infected partner.
- If you are having sex with a little known person, practice safe sex measures.
- Use latex or polyurethane condoms. Natural skin condoms do not prevent AIDS.
- Use condom even during oral or anal sex in addition to vaginal sex. However, AIDS does not spread through kissing or mutual masturbation.
- Avoid using oil based lubricants as they weaken the efficacy of the condom.
- Aggressive sexual activity can tear the condom or the wall of the vagina leading to infection.
- Do not do drugs and have sex because you will probably forget to practice safe sex measures.
- Even if you do inject drugs, never share your needle.
- If you are administering to a bleeding person, make sure that you do not have any cuts on your body through which the blood can become contaminated.
- If you are pregnant, follow anti AIDS therapy faithfully to prevent transmission to your baby.
Evaluating the success of AIDS prevention efforts:
|Rate of new HIV infections||Stabilized or decreased by 25% in 56 countries|
|Access to HIV treatment||Increased by 7.5 times over last 5 years|
|Number of people with access to life saving drugs in 2009||5.2 million|
|Number of children born with HIV||Decreased by 24%|
|Countries with programs to reduce stigma regarding AIDS||91%|
Source: unaids.org press release:2010
AIDS – myths and facts
Since AIDS is proving to be a more vicious killer than the Black Death, a number o fears and misconceptions have grown up regarding this disease. It is necessary to isolate the facts from the myths to understand this disease better.
- AIDS is caused by sharing air, water, utensils, physical contact etc.
The fact is that AIDS spreads only through the three methods described above. Breathing the same air, drinking from same glass, hugging, sharing clothes etc do not lead to the spread of the HIV infection.
- Death is imminent when you are diagnosed to be HIV positive.
It is best to remember that there are no effective strategies which will completely banish the HIV from your body. That said, being HIV positive does not mean that you will die within the year, especially if the diagnosis has been made in the early stage. A number of new drugs have become available. These along with lifestyle changes can help you live a long and productive life.
- New drugs and vaccines can prevent AIDS
Such vaccines are still in an experimental stage. Unless you adopt the tips given above, there are no drugs or vaccines to prevent AIDS.
- HIV can be communicated by mosquitoes.
Since contamination with infected blood is a method of transmission of AIDS, it is thought that when a mosquito bites an infected person and then it bites you, you can get HIV rather like malaria. However, AIDS is not caused by this method.
- Only homosexual contact can cause AIDS
While the homosexual population is estimated to be at higher risk, heterosexual contact can and do cause AIDS. People with multiple sexual partners are at highest risk.
- If you are already HIV positive, there is no need to practice safe sex.
If your partner is not HIV positive, you must practice safe sex to protect him/her from getting the infection. If both of you are HIV positive and are getting treatments, even then you must practice safe sex because otherwise, you may be exposed to more virulent drug resistant HIV strain.
- You will know if your partner is HIV positive or not.
It is impossible to know because a person can have the infection and not exhibit any symptoms even years after acquiring it. So, the truth about AIDS is that everyone needs to adopt the preventive strategies described above to avoid an exposure to HIV.