Getting to Zero

First reported some 30 years ago is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS), which is a life threatening condition caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). As at the end of 2014, it
was reported that about 37 million people were living with AIDS globally. Studies have shown that death of people living with AIDS has decreased by 42% since 2004 yet approximately 1.2million people died from AIDS in 2014.
Though mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex, HIV is transmitted when fluids (such as blood, sperm, vaginal fluids, pre-seminal fluids and breast milk) from an infected person gets into an uninfected person through blood/fluid transfusion, pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. By sharing injections or other sharp objects with HIV positive patients, HIV could also be spread. It cannot be spread by hugging, kissing, caring for or having physical contact with someone with AIDS.
HIV attacks and destroys the infection-fighting CD4 cells of the immune system. Loss of CD4 cells makes it difficult for the body to fight infections and certain cancers. If not treated, HIV infection can advance to AIDS. This occurs when the CD4 count falls below 200cells per microlitre (normal range is 600 to 1,500 cells per microliter) or the patient experience an AIDS-defining complication.
Symptoms of HIV vary depending on the phase of the infection. After the earliest stage of HIV infection, HIV continues to multiply but at very low levels. It may result in the development of mild infections or chronic symptoms, such as fever, fatigue, chronic diarrhea, rapid weight loss, and swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection. Upon progression to AIDS, opportunistic infections (infections that occur more frequently or are more severe in people with weakened immune systems than in people with healthy immune systems such as tuberculosis), soaking night sweats, recurring fever and other symptoms may be observed due to the destruction of the immune system. Cancers such as lymphomas and kaposi's sarcoma, candidiasis, cryptococcal meningitis and neurological disorders are complications that may arise.
Currently, there are no vaccines for the prevention of AIDS but preventive measures include: being faithful to a sexual partner, knowing your HIV status, using condoms and not sharing needles and other sharp instruments. However, other preventive measures being developed include vaccines and topical microbicides such as gels, creams, and foams that can be applied to the vagina or rectum prior to sexual intercourse. Another strategy is to provide pre-exposure prophylaxis (antiretroviral) to people who are not infected with HIV but who are at high risk of getting HIV infection.
We can overcome this AIDS epidemic because we have what it takes.


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