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December 1, 2009 is World AIDS Day

Every year December 1st is observed as World Aids Day. On this day, awareness is raised about the disease in society. The theme of 2009 was “Universal Access and Human Rights.”  According to an estimation of the United Nations, 33.4 million people are affected with this disease worldwide. Nearly half of them are infected by this disease before the age of 25 and die before the age of 35. There are nearly 1.2 million AIDS patients in United States, according to The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). 25% of them are unaware of their disease. Every year 40,000 new cases are reported. 75% of the new infections are in men. This article outlines the basics of AIDS.

What is AIDS? 

It stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The word acquired implies that the origin of the disease is from outside our body. Immune refers to the immune system, which is the technical name of the protective mechanism of our body. Deficiency means an inability of the protective system to do its job. Syndrome is a group of health problems together forming a disease.

How is AIDS Caused? 

This disease is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus or HIV. When this virus enters the body, the body’s protective mechanism starts fighting with it. When the blood of a person is tested, it can be determined whether the HIV virus is present in the body or not. When the presence of this virus is confirmed, the patient is called HIV Positive. Being HIV positive means the body’s defense system is still fighting with the HIV virus. Only when the body’s natural defense system fails in this task, we say that the person has AIDS. Mere confirmation of the presence of the virus does not make a person an AIDS patient.

How does the HIV Virus enter our Body? 

Blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal fluid are some of the liquid substances present in our body. When a healthy individual comes in contact with these bodily fluids of an AIDS patient, the HIV virus enters his body. In this way, he acquires the virus from outside his body and becomes HIV positive. Though tears and saliva are also body fluids, no cases of the spreading of the disease have been reported through them.

What Happens in an AIDS Patient’s Body?

It is not easy to know that we are infected by the virus. The symptoms of infection can be similar to other common health problems, like the flu, which we ignore easily. This virus enters our body and multiplies in huge numbers. It takes weeks and even months for our body’s immune system to detect the virus and respond. By this time the virus has built up a strong presence in the body. The body then produces special chemicals called antibodies to fight with the virus. But the virus targets the destruction of these antibodies very easily. Over a period of time, the virus completely destroys the ability of the body to produce antibodies in case of any viral attack. This exposes our body to a large number of infections and makes us prone to tumors. That is why AIDS is so dreadful.

There are no means available to stop this gradual destruction of the body. That is, there is no cure for AIDS yet. Medicines can only control the damage of the HIV virus to the immune system and delay the inevitable death. The effect of the HIV virus is different on different people. Many die within a few months. Others survive for years after being confirmed as an AIDS patient. Until any cure is available, prevention through awareness is our only weapon against AIDS. Hence, the necessity for WORLD AIDS DAY.

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