HIV is an example of sexually transmitted diseases.
It is caused by tiny things called viruses, which are much smaller than bacteria.
The virus destroys the body’s protective or defensive systems by invading and killing the white blood cells also known as soldiers of the body.
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
• Human: the virus attacks humans.
• Immunodeficiency: the germ destroys people’s immunity or ability to fight disease.
• Virus: the disease-causing germ is a virus.
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome.
• Acquired: got from.
• Immune: protection against.
• Deficiency: lacking.
• Syndrome: meaning a number of signs or symptoms, which collectively suggest an illness.
AIDS is a killer disease.
Methods of HIV/AIDS Transmission
How does a healthy person get HIV?
HIV is transmitted in any of the following methods:
1. Sexual intercourse.
2. Blood transfusion.
3. Mother to child.
4. Through use of un-sterilised instruments.
Sexual intercourse Exchange of body fluids occurs during sexual intercourse.
Semen from the male and vaginal fluids from the female comes into contact at this time.
As the fluids are exchanged, HIV found in the body fluids of the infected person, is passed from the sick person to the healthy person.
Wife inheritance is a traditional or cultural practice in some societies where a widow is inherited by a relative to act as his wife.
If the widow has HIV, then she easily spreads it in such situations through sexual intercourse.
Sometimes a sick person or an accident victim may require more blood.
In such cases, the doctor may direct that the patient be given more blood. Adding blood to a needy person or patient is called blood transfusion.
Blood from the body of a person with HIV should not be transfused as such blood contains the HIV virus.
This will be transferred to the patient thereby infecting the patient with HIV.
Mother to child
When a lady is pregnant, the foetus or unborn child gets nutrients and oxygen from the blood of the mother through the placenta.
The foetus also eliminates its waste products through the placenta of the mother.
During these exchanges, the HIV virus might be passed from an infected mother to a healthy foetus.
A child born to an infected mother may also be infected with HIV during or after birth.
Immediately after birth, a newly born child is connected to his/her mother by the umbilical cord, which formally was the feeding line between the foetus and the placenta.
If care is not taken when cutting the umbilical cord, the HIV infected mother may transmit the virus to the child.
During its first two years of life, the child is too young to feed on anything else apart from breast milk.
So an infected mother who breast-feeds her healthy child runs the risk of infecting the child with HIV through breast feeding.
Through use of un-sterilised instruments
This can happen in various situations for example:
• Medical institutions: where a syringe and needle, razor blades or other cutting instruments are used on different people without sterilisation.
• Cultural or traditional practices:
• Among drug abusers when they share syringes and needles to inject drugs into their bodies.
• Sharing toothbrushes, razor blades and other sharp instruments.
• During birth: when cutting the umbilical cord.
What is sterilisation?
Sterilisation is making something completely clean and free from living micro-organisms through boiling or heating.
Syringes, needles and blades can be sterilised in this way.
Other methods of sterilising are;
- treating the instruments with steam,
- heating on an open flame or immersing in domestic bleach.
HIV/AIDS is not spread or transmitted through:
- Eating food in the same plate with infected people.
- Breathing air in the same room with infected people.
- Casual contact with the infected for example: shaking hands, playing together and even hugging.
- Mosquito bites.
- Sharing baths, showers, toilets, public transport, classrooms or even swimming pools.
Stages of development of HIV/ AIDS infection
After becoming infected by HIV, the disease may take a long time to show.
Therefore, some people who appear healthy may be infected by the HIV virus which keeps on increasing or advancing.
Now let’s have a look at the different stages of HIV/AIDS.
The window stage
This is the period immediately after the HIV gets into the body of a person.
The person still looks healthy and if a test is carried out, no HIV infection may be traced.
A person in this stage can infect others.
In the person’s body the white blood cells are being destroyed therefore gradually weakening the body’s defense system against diseases.
The infected person looks healthy although when tested, the presence of HIV may be detected in the blood.
The victim therefore tests HIV positive.
Poor health or sickly stage
The infected person starts suffering from many different minor ailments that come and go.
These ailments include coughing, tuberculosis, skin ailment, mouth sores and diarrhoea.
Outwards, the victim may still appear healthy.
The infected person suffers from many opportunistic diseases that do not seem to go away even though the patient is under medication.
The person suffers from vomiting and diarrhoea, tuberculosis, coughing, skin rashes, mouth sores and many other diseases which are collectively referred to as the AIDS disease.
The person is much weaker and needs assistance to do most things.
These many diseases (AIDS) finally overwhelm the body which succumbs to death
The test for HIV is done on the blood.
The test looks for the body’s reaction to the invading HIV.
This is a cheap, reliable and accurate way of finding out whether one is healthy (HIV negative) or infected (HIV positive).
The only problem is that if a person is newly infected, between 3-6 months, the HIV may not have shown itself though it is inside the body and hence cannot be detected easily.
People in this stage, which is referred to as the window period, are very dangerous because they think they are HIV free .
HIV test tells one if they are infected with HIV.
It tells somebody their HIV status, whether HIV positive or HIV negative.
What does it mean if a person tests HIV positive?
If a person tests HIV positive then:
• The person is infected with HIV and can spread the virus to others during sex, through pregnancy, childbirth, breastfeeding or if they donate blood which is then transfused into a healthy person.
• The person may develop the AIDS disease in future (within 3 to 8 years of infection, among many people).
What does it mean if a person tests HIV negative?
If a person tests HIV negative then:
• The individual has not been infected with or exposed to the HIV virus.
• The individual may be infected but they are still in the window p eriod where the virus cannot be detected yet.
It is advisable to take another test six months later to ensure that one was not in the window period.
Effects of HIV/AIDS HIV/AIDS affects different levels of the society.
It affects people as individuals, people as a family and people as a nation.
What effects does HIV/AIDS have on different levels of society?
1. A person may be angry, be in denial and shock which could lead to depression.
2. Suffer from various diseases, one after the other leading to poor health.
3. May be ignored or deserted by friends and family.
4. May lead to discrimination even at places of work.
It may also lead to loss of job in some places.
On the family
1. May be angry.
2. More money may be spent on the patient, thereby reducing the normal family budget.
3. The family may face a lot of hardship if the whole family depended on the patient for their daily basic needs.
4. When the victims die, children are left as orphans.
5. Elderly family members are burdened with the care of young children.
6. In some cases very young children are left to fend for themselves.
On the nation
1. Hospital space and bed capacity in the hospitals may be reduced as majority of those infected occupy the hospitals.
2. Most of the medicine budget is spent on AIDS related drugs therefore there is very little money left to take care of other killer diseases such as malaria and tuberculosis.
3. The nation faces an increase in the number of orphans and eventually of street children.
4. The country is losing the young professionals, for example doctors, teachers, engineers, due to HIV/AIDS.
Care and support of people infected with HIV/AIDS
People infected with HIV/AIDS need care and support.
Love and care
People living with HIV/AIDS should be accepted in the society.
They should not be looked down upon.
We can show love to such people through:
• Spending time with them.
• Listening to them.
• Comforting and consoling them.
• Serving them food and giving any other help when they cannot move about.
• Washing their clothing and beddings.
• Constantly visiting them.
• Nursing them by giving them medicine, reminding them when to take medicine and washing the things they use to take medicine.
• Encouraging them to go to hospital and even accompanying them. HIV/AIDS should not break up relationships between friends or family.
Medical care :
People living with HIV/AIDS should:
• Take medicine and should strictly follow the doctor’s instructions.
• Avoid smoking and drinking alcohol.
• Have plenty of rest since the body needs extra rest.
• Be active and engage in activities like visiting friends or reading storybooks to avoid depression which may be caused by being idle.
• Avoid risky behaviour that may lead to more infections related with HIV/AIDS.
• Go for treatment from qualified health workers or doctors.
An infected person should:
• Have a balanced diet with:
1. Bodybuilding and repair foods such as peas, beans, eggs, meat, fish, groundnuts among others.
2. Energy giving foods such as ugali, cassava, rice, maize, bread, potatoes.
3. Protective foods with vitamins and minerals such as fruits and vegetables. •Avoid alcohol and cigarettes.
• Try to eat even when they do not have the appetite. They should take small quantities of food but eat more often.
• Take liquid foods, if the HIV/AIDS patients have wounds in the mouth.
• If a person has diarrhoea, he/she needs to take lots of drinks like plenty of water, juice, milk,
It is better to take the oral rehydration solution (ORS). Oral rehydration solution is water with some salts.
A salt sugar solution (SSS) can also be taken. After every incident of diarrhoea, a patient should take one full cup of the drink.
A person suffering from HIV/AIDS should avoid contact with disease causing organisms through:
• Washing their hands with soap and hot water after visiting the toilet.
• Eating well cooked food.
• Drinking boiled or treated water.
Living in clean surrounding such as:
1. A clean compound with rubbish burnt often to keep away flies.
2. Using the latrines and toilets well all the time and covering the pit latrines after use.
Prevention of HIV/AIDS transmission
What is meant by prevention of a disease?
Prevention of a disease is taking steps to ensure that people who are not infected remain in that healthy state.
HIV transmission can be prevented through:
• Abstaining from sex until after marriage.
• Married people should avoid having sex with other partners and be faithful to their spouses.
• Persons who handle blood and other body fluids for example doctors and nurses should put on protective gear such as gloves.
• People who are taking care of HIV/ AIDS patients, the soiled, blood-stained or dirtied clothes and sheets or any other linen should handle them with gloves.
These materials must be washed with plenty of soap and water then hung to dry in the sun.
The radiation from the sun and dry conditions easily kill the HIV germs.
One should therefore avoid habits such as:
• Sharing personal items like toothbrushes, razorblades, or instruments used for ear piercing, nose piercing, tattooing.
• Bad company or peers, which may lead to such risky behaviours as sexual intercourse, drug taking (sharing a syringe for instance) and alcohol drinking. When one is under the influence of drugs or is drunk, one is not able to say no to sex.
• Walking in isolated places as this may expose one to rape. Rape may lead to HIV transmission.
• Being in tempting situations that may encourage sex or even rape. Should an unfortunate case of rape happen, go for HIV test to ascertain your condition.
• Using unsterilised medical equipments, and any traditional instruments that are used on many people.
It is recommended that:
• Medical personnel use disposable equipment, which are used only once on one person and then disposed of.
• Blood to be used for blood transfusion should be screened thoroughly. Infected blood should be disposed of.
What do we mean by the term disease control?
Control of a disease is taking measures to ensure that a disease does not spread to the uninfected.
What are some ways of controlling HIV from spreading?
Mass education refers to passing on information to many people at the same time in an organised manner.
Mass education can be conducted through public rallies or barazas, group meetings, seminars, workshops, pamphlets, booklets, newsletters and brochures, drama, games and shows (video and film).
Campaigns through various media
To campaign is to carry out a planned or organised action to pass information to a large number of people (public).
Campaigns on the dangers and spread of HIV/AIDS can be done using such mass media outlets as radio, television, newspapers and mobile film shows.
Creating public awareness on HIV/AIDS
This can be done through organizing events where people learn about HIV/AIDS.
What are myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS?
Myths are false beliefs.
It means believing in things that do not exist or that are not real.
Myths also mean stories that are passed down from old times or from old people to young people.
The stories contain the beliefs of the community.
Misconceptions are wrong ideas about something.
Some of the myths and misconceptions in various communities about HIV/AIDS are:
• HIV/AIDS is a curse, spell or punishment for doing things that are taboo in the community.
Taboo is behaviours that are prohibited in society.
• HIV/AIDS is brought about by witchcraft.
• Failure to inherit a dead relative’s wife leads to a curse that develops into HIV/ AIDS.
• Some herbs can cure HIV/AIDS.
• Some traditional customs like tattooing (making patterns or pictures on the skin) or scarification (forming scars on the skin) can cure AIDS when the bad blood that carries the disease is poured out of the body to the ground.
• A widow must be cleansed by having sex after the death of her partner.
Failure to perform the sexual act results into a curse which may develop into HIV/AIDS.
• If all members of an age group are not circumcised using the same instrument, this will weaken the age group-bond.
• A mosquito can transmit HIV germs from an infected person to a healthy person.
• One can contract HIV/AIDS if they shook hands or hugged with an infected person.
• Sharing drinks and food with an infected person will spread HIV to the uninfected.
• A witchdoctor can perform some traditional rites using a concoction of herbs to lockout HIV/AIDS from a homestead and thus prevent the disease from infecting any close members of the family.
• People with the ‘wicked-eye’ can easily bewitch a person who then contracts HIV/ AIDS.
• Somebody can only contract HIV/AIDS from prostitutes (also called commercial sex workers) but cannot contract HIV/AIDS from certain groups of people such as small children, disabled people, or virgins.
• If one has contracted HIV/AIDS and has sex with a young child, they will be cleansed and be cured from HIV/AIDS.
HIV/AIDS is a terminal disease that has no cure.
A person with HIV/AIDS needs to feed well in order for the body to have sufficient nutrients to be able to maintain its health.
Nutritional requirements for a person with HIV/AIDS:
• A HIV/AIDS patient’s body has difficulty in fighting diseases so they need a diet of protective foods to provide minerals and vitamins to fight disease germs.
• If the patient has wounds or sores in the mouth, the person should feed on liquid food.
Solid food for example ugali or rice may be made liquid by mixing with milk.
• It is essential that the HIV/AIDS patient exercises and goes to visit a doctor. The patient therefore needs energy.
The body must also perform its normal functions such as breathing, heartbeat, blood circulation and other muscle movements.
All these need energy.
The patient should therefore be given a diet containing carbohydrates and fats.
• If the patient is suffering from diarrhoea, there is need to take more fluids, like clean water and fresh fruit juices. At least two litres per day should be taken by the patient to avoid dehydration.
• When a person is having diarrhoea, the body loses minerals.
It is therefore important that the patient takes the oral rehydration salts (ORS), which is made by dissolving one packet of the commercially acquired ORS packet in one litre of water.
The patient then takes one glass every time after passing watery stool.
• In the absence of ORS the patient can make salt sugar solution (SSS), which is made by dissolving one teaspoonful of salt and eight teaspoonfuls of sugar in a litre of water.
The patient should take one glass of this solution every time after having diarrhoea or passing watery stool.
In this topic we have learnt about HIV AIDS;
- Modes of transmission of HIV/AIDS
- Stages of development of HIV/AIDS
- Importance of HIV testing
- The effects of HIV/AIDS infection on an individual, family and nation.
- Myths and misconceptions about HIV/AIDS
- Care and support of people infected by HIV/AIDS such as: love and care, adequate-diet, hygiene, medical care
Please review the topic to make sure you have understood everything.
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