World AIDS Day was first observed in 1988. Every year, various organizations across the globe bring awareness to the epidemic, endeavor to increase awareness and knowledge, speak out against the stigma of HIV and AIDS, and call for a greater response to move toward ending the epidemic.
What is HIV/AIDS?
Many people know about HIV and AIDS, and even possibly how it spreads. HIV (Human immunodeficiency virus) is a progressive disease that affects the body’s (particularly the immune system) ability to fight off disease and illness. Contracting HIV can often lead to the development of AIDS (Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). AIDS develops when HIV has caused serious damage to the immune system. HIV doesn’t always progress to AIDS, however. Many people with HIV live for years without developing AIDS. HIV/AIDS is transmitted from person to person via sexual contact or through other bodily fluids, most commonly through shared needles. A mother with HIV can also transmit the virus to their child during pregnancy or labor/delivery.
Typically, when a person has been infected by HIV, they will develop flu-like symptoms about 2-4 weeks after infection. The body can usually defend itself against the virus for a while, but it cannot completely fight/cure the virus itself. A simple antibody test can detect the virus through blood or saliva samples, but it may take several weeks after infection to determine whether the antibody test is positive. Another form of testing is an antigen test, which detects the virus just days after infection. Both of these tests have been determined to be extremely accurate and easy to administer.
Testing for Aids
To determine whether or not the HIV virus has developed into AIDS, a healthcare provider must complete a blood cell count of CD4 cells. A person without HIV might have anywhere from 500 to 1200 CD4 cells, and when the cells have dropped to around 200, it is considered to be stage 3 HIV (also known as AIDS).
Treatment options and life expectancy rates vary from person to person. When a person has stage 3 HIV, life expectancy rates drop significantly because, at that point, it is difficult to repair the very damaged immune system. However, when using successful antiretroviral therapy and some immune system recovery, many people with stage 3 HIV live long lives.
It is important to bring awareness to HIV/AIDS by understanding how the disease spreads and what you can do to prevent the disease or treat the disease if you or someone you know has been affected. There are various options for the prevention and treatment of HIV. We can be the change by coming together to help reduce the spread of the virus and sharing facts about the virus with others.