What is HIV/AIDS?

Your immune system is like a shield. The main job of this shield is to fight against harmful substances and germs that enter the body. The immune system makes antibodies and uses them to specifically fight certain germs that the body has previously come into contact with and recognizes. All in all, one can say that the immune system plays a vital role in ensuring that our body remains healthy and resilient. Now imagine a virus so lethal that when it invades the body, it destroys your immune system, the shield that protects your body. This virus is known as the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is an RNA-based infection responsible for a chronic and potentially life-threatening condition called acquired immunodeficiency syndrome, or AIDS. In humans, the virus works by infecting and destroying a type of white blood cell called a helper, thereby interfering with the immune system, decreasing the ability to fight infection while increasing the risk of developing cancer and other life-threatening diseases. The destruction of these lymphocytes can directly affect the body by causing swelling and tissue damage.

Origin of HIV/AIDS

In the year 1999, researchers found a strain of SIV (called SIVcpz) in a chimpanzee that was almost similar to HIV in humans. It was proved by the same researchers that the chimpanzees were the source of HIV-1 and that the virus had at some point crossed species from chimps to humans. The first verified case of HIV is from a blood sample taken in 1959 from a man living in what is now Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The retrospective analysis of the blood led to the discovery of HIV.

HIV in 2020

  • On a global level, there are approximately 38 million people who are living with HIV. The virus has killed more than 35 million people since its discovery back in 1984, making it one of the deadliest pandemics in human history. Women and girls accounted for about 48% of all new HIV infections in 2019. In sub-Saharan Africa, women and girls accounted for 59% of all new HIV infections [1].
  • As per the latest HIV estimates report (2019) of the Government of India, 2.4 million people are infected with HIV/AIDS (PLHIV) in India. The HIV epidemic has a decreasing trend in the country, with estimated annual New HIV infections declining by 37% between 2010 and 2019. The main high-risk behaviors identified for HIV infection in India include unprotected sexual behavior and unsafe injecting drug use.

Cure for HIV/AIDS

Officially, a reliable cure for HIV does not exist. Antiviral pills protect the vast majority of patients and make it possible for those who are infected to reduce the number of viral particles in their bodies. Only two PLHIV are free of the virus after treatment (including the use of stem cells to replace bone marrow) as of February 2020.

International recognition

  • The World AIDS Day is held on December 1 every year since 1988. It is regarded as an international day to raise awareness about HIV and AIDS around the world. The idea was first conceived in August 1987 by James W. Bunn and Thomas Netter, two public information officers for the Global Programme on AIDS (now known as UNAIDS) at the World Health Organization in Geneva, Switzerland. Each year, People observe World AIDS Day with a specific theme in mind.
  • For 2020, the theme is “Ending the HIV/AIDS Epidemic: Resilience and Impact,” which will primarily focus on creating global solidarity among people who live with HIV and also seek to destigmatize the health issue. The theme focuses on the importance of providing resilient care and support during the coronavirus pandemic.

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