AIDS stands for acquired immune deficiency syndrome. It’s also called advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV. HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV is a virus that attacks cells in the immune system (the body’s natural defense against illness). The virus destroys a type of white blood cell in the immune system called a T-helper cell or CD4 cell. It gradually weakens a person's immune system.
India has the third-largest HIV epidemic with 2.35 million people living with HIV. Of this 1.345 million are receiving ART. There were 69,220 new HIV infections and 58,960 AIDS-related deaths reported in India in 2019. India's HIV epidemic is driven by sexual transmission. The three states with the highest HIV prevalence, Manipur, Mizoram, and Nagaland, are in the east of the country. India's HIV epidemic is slowing down. Between 2010 and 2017 new infections declined by 27% and AIDS-related deaths more than halved, falling by 56%.
We at Medicircle are conducting the World AIDS Day Awareness Series to educate people about AIDS and its preventive measures from eminent Expert Doctors and Medical professionals.
Dr. Hitesh Patel has been practicing as HIV Consultant for the last 14 years. He is an HIV & AIDS Consultant at "Sankalp” clinic in Mumbai. Also, he is Clinical assistance in the Department of HIV & Infectious Disease at Holy Spirit Hospital, Mumbai. He is also a Consultant at Sarva Seva Sangh -- Transforming Lives of Waste Picking Children, Street Children, School Drop Out Youth, People Living with and Affected by HIV – AIDS. He is a Co-author for the topic - Post Exposure Prophylaxis in HIV - in "Monograph on HIV" by the Indian College of Physicians. He has Conducted Lectures for Nursing Staff on HIV- AIDS as NACO Training Program. He has also conducted an HIV Awareness program for the college students of Mumbai.
Dr. Hitesh explains, “HIV was first identified in Los Angeles, US 1981. It was the syndrome with lower immunity hence it was named AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome). In 1982 it was found that AIDS is caused by HIV, the virus attacks our immune system (CD4 cells) and significantly slows down the number. AIDS is the advanced stage of HIV infection.
Stages of HIV infection
Dr. Hitesh says, "There are different stages of HIV infection. CD4 cell count measures the immunity of the body. Normal CD4 cell count – 450-1600 cells per cubic millimeters of blood.
1. If CD4 cell count is greater than 500 – Stage I.
2. If CD4 cell count is between 200-500 – Stage II.
3. If CD4 cell count is less than 200 – Stage III.
Stage III is AIDS or the advanced or later stage of HIV.
Who should be tested for HIV?
Dr. Hitesh emphasizes, “Everyone between the ages of 13 and 64 should get tested for HIV at least once. Other than this people at higher risk should get tested more often.
People at higher risk for AIDS
1. People with unprotected sex
2. People having multiple partners
3. People having sexually transmitted diseases
4. People having hepatitis B & C
5. People who use injectable drugs
Dr. Hitesh adds, “Apart from these, pregnant women should also get HIV tests done. Early pregnancies should also be tested so that their babies can be protected by treating them on time.
Dr. Hitesh concludes, “NACO has done a wonderful job in controlling AIDS in our country. HIV disease can be treated with Antiretroviral (ART) Therapy or Highly Active Antiretroviral (HAART) Therapy. This therapy needs to be taken lifelong by HIV-positive people. This therapy not only helps in controlling the disease but also increases immunity. There are a variety of roles in the treatment process -
Different roles in the treatment
1. Clinical role – To reduce mortality and morbidity (Prolonged life with good quality)
2. Virological role – Suppresses virus to its maximum
3. Immunological role – Reconstitution/restoration of immunity
4. Therapeutic role – Use of medicines that can achieve the first three roles with minimum drug toxicity
5. Epidemiological role – Reduce HIV transmission.
(Edited by Renu Gupta)