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Must-know facts about AIDS

Times of India
21 September 2011
By, Monami K. Thakur

As per the United Nations 2011 statistics, the occurrence rate of AIDS in India has reduced by almost 50 per cent in the last 10 years.
Must-know facts about AIDS (Thinkstock photos/Getty Images)
This can be attributed primarily to the efforts of the many anti–AIDS campaigns promoted by the government and non–government (NGOs and private organizations) bodies. It is only through proper education and communication programmes that awareness on AIDS prevention can be created. Today we've got a few must–know facts about AIDS that will help you understand the condition, its origins and spread.

HIV or the human immunodeficiency virus is a lenti virus that infects the cells of the immune system and impairs their functions. Infection by the virus causes the gradual breakdown of the body's ability to ward off infections and diseases. Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS), on the other hand, is the most advanced stage of HIV infection wherein, the body is infected by more than 20 opportunistic diseases or HIV–related cancers.

History and origin:
It is believed that the disease first came from chimpanzees during a hunting incident in the Democratic Republic of Congo during the 1930s. However, it was only in the early 1980s that the term AIDS was first coined and introduced. Originally, it was thought that the condition is prevalent only among homosexuals. But later, reports and researches made it evident that the infection can occur in heterosexuals as well.

As per World Health Organization statistics, more than 2 million people across the world die every year due to HIV/AIDS. Due to this, the condition is regarded as the world's number one infectious killer affecting mainly low and middle income countries.

Areas of prevalence:
The region having the largest incidence of HIV infection is Africa with an estimated 21-28 million people suffering from the condition. Apart from this, certain regions in Asia and Eastern Europe including India also have a strong proportion of HIV victims. Countries like Russia and Ukraine also have a large number of HIV victims and people suffering from AIDS.

HIV–infection progression:
The time required for HIV–infected persons to develop AIDS varies widely. According to UN AIDS reports, majority of people infected with the virus develop signs of HIV–related illness within 5 to 10 years if not treated at the earliest. However, the durations between the HIV infection and the actual development of AIDS can be 10–15 years and sometimes even longer.

Mother to child transmission:
Although infection can spread from mother to child, current recommendations indicate that this can be avoided entirely with the help of preventive medicines and procedures. However, access to such preventive interventions is low in certain developing low income nations. Another way to achieve this is by avoiding the process of breast feeding and opting for replacement feeding methods.

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