Since the 80’s, HIV has been perhaps the most researched STD. The HIV virus affects the human immune system and weakens the body’s defense against infections. The virus is spread by unprotected sex, needle sharing and by an infected mother to her newborn and in some cases through contaminated blood during blood transfusion etc.
The problem with detecting HIV is that it may not show any visible symptoms for a long time after someone is infected. Some of the early symptoms include flu-like symptoms, canker sores, fever, fatigue and swollen glands.
There are antiviral drugs that can help prevent HIV from turning into full blown AIDS, but these need to be started as soon as possible. The only way to be sure if someone is infected with this virus is to get a blood test done.
Undeveloped countries especially in Africa have seen the highest incidence of increase in HIV cases and India too has not escaped the clutches of this global epidemic. According to a survey (2009) there were 2.39 million people living in India who had HIV infection and a reported 172,000 people died due it in that year.
The actual figures may be much higher as a lot of cases go unreported due to the stigma, discrimination and shame attached to the disease. These pre conceived notions have got to do more with ignorance and misinformation than anything else. The only way to counter this is to increase awareness among the people especially in rural India and give them the right information about the disease and on how to cope with people who are infected and how to treat them not only medically but also socially.
It is important to know that one should treat a person with HIV the same as any other both at their work place and home. HIV is NOT transmitted by shaking hands or hugging, using private or public toilets and by mosquito bites.
It can be transmitted by having oral sex, deep kissing where there is transfer of fluids (saliva which can be contaminated by bleeding gums or cuts), unsterilized equipment used for tattoos and shaving at the barber shop. Even condoms are not 100% safe as they can tear or have microscopic holes which can lead the virus to be transferred.
So you need to take care and always insist on getting a brand new blade when getting a shave at the barber shop, and the instruments in a tattoo parlor is sterilized. Abstaining from sex or having a sexually faithful partner is another way of reducing your risk of contracting this disease.
Arranged marriages are very common in India, and if you are getting married this way then insist on a HIV and STD report of your prospective spouse before tying the knot.
In those unfortunate cases where both couples are infected with this virus; it is very important to still use protection during sex as the degree of infection for both will be different and the partner with the higher degree of infection can accelerate the onset of AIDS in the partner with the lower degree of infection.
HIV Infected expectant mothers should take Anti-HIV medications to dramatically reduce the risk of passing the virus to their newborn child.