By Amina Khan

April 30, 2009

When AIDS first emerged, no one could have predicted how the epidemic would spread across the world and how many millions of lives it would change. There was no real idea what caused it and consequently no real idea how to protect against it.
Now we know from bitter experiences that AIDs is caused by the virus HIV, and that it can devastate families, communities and whole continents. We have seen the epidemic knock decades off countries' national development, widen the gulf between rich and poor nations and push already stigmatized groups closer to the margins of society. We are living in an 'international' society, and HIV has become the first truly 'international' epidemic, easily crossing oceans and borders.
Acquired immune deficiency is indubitably one of the most fatal diseases ever known to mankind…..

So what does Acquired immune deficiency syndrome actually mean??...
Acquired means you can get infected with it;
Immune deficiency means a weakness in the body’s system that fights diseases and;
Syndrome means a group of health problems that make up a disease

How does one get infected??
AIDS is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If you get infected with HIV, your body will try to fight the infection. It will make "antibodies," special molecules to fight HIV.
A blood test for HIV looks for these antibodies. If you have them in your blood, it means that you have HIV infection. People who have the HIV antibodies are called "HIV-Positive
Being HIV-positive, or having HIV disease, is not the same as having AIDS. Many people are HIV-positive but don't get sick for many years. As HIV disease continues, it slowly wears down the immune system. Viruses, parasites, fungi and bacteria that usually don't cause any problems can make you very sick if your immune system is damaged. These are called opportunistic infections

How has AIDS affected the countries around the world??
Already, more than twenty-five million people around the world have died of AIDS-related diseases. In 2007, around 2.1 million men, women and children lost their lives. 33 million people around the world are now living with HIV, and most of these are likely to die over the next decade or so. The most recent UNAIDS/WHO estimates show that, in 2007 alone, 2.5 million people were newly infected with HIV.
It is disappointing that the global numbers of people infected with HIV continue to rise, despite the fact that effective prevention strategies already exist.
Millions of people are infected with HIV, and millions more are likely potential victims. Life expectancy has already dropped precipitously in some countries. As parents die of AIDS-related causes, their children become orphans and face uncertain futures. The ability to cope with the demands and consequences of HIV and AIDS is limited by the funds available for health care.
On the hopeful side, more and more governments are responding to the crisis by acknowledging that AIDS is a major concern, by establishing high-level coordinating bodies, and by taking measures to prevent the spread of AIDS. The global challenge of HIV/AIDS is to intensify international action to fight the epidemic and to mobilize the resources needed.

IS there a cure for Aids???
There is no cure for AIDS. There are drugs that can slow down the HIV virus, and slow down the damage to your immune system. There is no way to "clear" the HIV out of your body.
Other drugs can prevent or treat opportunistic infections (OIs). In most cases, these drugs work very well. The newer, stronger ARVs have also helped reduce the rates of most OIs. A few OIs, however, are still very difficult to treat.

Where do we go from here….???

Money is finally being spent on both treating the disease and on preventing new infections from occurring. This spending needs to increase both in its magnitude and its effectiveness. Many people fail to realize that actually spending money, in the very large sums the fight against HIV requires, is a difficult task, and one of which many organizations have little experience.
The Global Fund, an organization created to channel money to where around the world it is most needed, is an already-existing way of effectively spending money. Many governments, however, wish to exert control over how their donations are spent and on what projects, so they prefer to channel their funding through other channels.
In January 2003, President Bush announced a bold new initiative known as PEPFAR, through which the USA will spent $18 billion over five years on HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care programs in other countries. In 2008, Bush reauthorized PEPFAR, pledging a further US$39 billion to tackle the global AIDS epidemic.

Prevention and education
Education has already been proved to be effective and necessary, both for people who are not infected with HIV - to enable them to protect themselves from HIV - and for people who are HIV positive - to help them to live with the virus. There is a huge wealth of educational resources available around the world, and yet in many places people still lack the knowledge they need to protect themselves.
AIDS is a preventable disease, but to avoid HIV infection people need more than just factual information. People need empowerment to negotiate safe and responsible sexual relationships; gender inequalities must be confronted; and those who choose to have sex need access to condoms. Needle exchanges should be encouraged, as they have proven highly effective at preventing HIV transmission among injecting drug users.

Antiretroviral AIDS medication is now being distributed to low-income, high prevalence countries, but it is taking a long time to actually reach the people who need it. Access to treatment must greatly improve if millions of deaths are to be avoided. One of the greatest challenges is a shortage of health workers to carry out HIV tests, administer the medicines, and teach people how to use them.

HIV has finally been recognized as a global threat, and people are beginning to take action to prevent it killing many millions more than those who have already died. This action needs to be speeded up considerably. The HIV epidemic is growing, and efforts to fight it need to grow at an even greater rate if they are to be successful.
An ever-growing AIDS epidemic is not inevitable. However, unless action against the epidemic is scaled up drastically, the damage already done will seem minor compared with what lies ahead. This may sound dramatic, but it is hard to play down the effects of a disease that stands to kill more than half of the young adults in the countries where it has its firmest hold. Entire families, communities and countries will begin to collapse if this situation is allowed to occur.

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