Discussion on AIDS
Recognised as an emerging disease only in the 1980s, AIDS or Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome has rapidly become endemic with serious implications worldwide. AIDS has infected an estimated 40 million in less than 20 years. AIDS is caused by the HIV (human immuno-deficiency) virus that damages the body's immune system, leading to an inability to fight infections, resulting in multiple diseases due to reduced immunity that more often than not leads to death. It was first noticed in 1981 in the United States amongst members of the gay community.
In 1983, the AIDS virus was first discovered independently by researchers in France and then by researchers in the United States in 1984. Those infected with HIV show no symptoms of illness or infection for as long as 10 years, which is referred to as the dormant stage. The virus primarily infects certain white blood cells that play a key role in the functioning of the body's immune system. As a result, the patient is susceptible to illnesses that his body would normally have overcome.
Unsafe sex practices, multiple sex partners, sharing of needles between drug users and transfusion of contaminated blood are just some of the ways which HIV is spread. Women with HIV can transmit the virus to the newborn. In the early years, AIDS occurred mainly among homosexuals and bisexuals, but of late heterosexual numbers have increased.
AIDS is a major public health problem with deep economic and social consequences. Ignorance of safe sexual practices is a major cause. And in 'developing countries such as India, there is a close relation between migrant labour and HIV transmission. Migrant labour constitutes a poorly educated segment of Indian society.
Cut off from their families for long periods and starved sexually, they end up visiting the city's red-light areas, where sexually transmitted diseases are rampant. It is not long before they themselves pick up the infection and, on their return home, transmit the disease to their wives or the village women. India has a huge migrant population with significant rural-urban migration in states like Delhi, Tamil Nadu, West Bengal and Maharashtra. With identified cases in India rising, the National AIDS Control Organisation (NACO) predicts a grim picture. The need of the hour is to create greater awareness about the danger of AIDS and the enormity of the problem among the masses. NGOs have been playing a large role in disseminating information and awareness amongst the masses and the target areas.
As AIDS is a relatively new disease that involves sex and drugs and it mainly afflicts young adults, it has generated widespread social concern. Educating people about the risks of AIDS, both in schools and at the community level, should be the main approach to prevent infection. Public health clinics and voluntary organisations in many places offer counselling and HIV antibody testing to people who have developed symptoms or at a high risk of infection. However, people who have contracted AIDS should not be treated as outcasts and society should display a humanitarian approach towards them. One should prevent discrimination and the concerned authorities should take steps to avoid this.