The Sharmas are watching ‘Cyber world’ on television; their PC has been hit by a virus and they are looking for the possible solutions. During a set of commercials comes the ‘AIDS Awareness’ advertisement which, as a matter of fact, talks about safe sex and condoms. There is an eerie silence. Suddenly Abhishek (13) has been asked to fetch the newspaper and Naina (17), a glass of water. The T.V is switched off…

Well, if ‘this’ virus enters your ‘internal system’, it will never go. Yes, we are talking about AIDS-a virus for which even the medical sciences have failed to find a cure, a disease which had a staggering 39.5 million people living under its trap, of which nearly 5.7 million were Indians (2006) ! Will this attitude help us to eradicate this deadly pandemic? NO!
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is a collection of symptoms and infections resulting from the specific damage to the immune system caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Let’s take a closer look. Our immune system is made up of immune cells, mainly Lymphocytes (White Blood Cells) which are of two types: B cells and T cells. While the B cells secrete antibodies into the body’s fluids to attack antigens, the T cells (Helper and Killer T cells) attack and destroy infected or malignant cells in the body. When HIV is introduced into the body, it is too strong for the T cells. This causes the virus to invade the cells and multiply itself. Consequently, other viruses, parasites or cancer cells (called “opportunistic diseases”) can multiply within the body without fear of destruction.
Besides causing harm to the human body, AIDS also hinders economic development. Shocked? Well, the economic impact of AIDS is noticed in slower economic growth, a distortion in spending, increased inflows of international assistance, and changing demographic structure of the population. Not only this; AIDS selectively destroys human capital, that is, peoples’ job skills, knowledge and insights built up over a period of years.
As said earlier, there is no cure for AIDS and it is eventually fatal. However, life-prolonging antiretroviral drugs help to control the reproduction of the virus in those who are fortunate enough to have access to them.Understanding the gravity of the situation, stringent measures need to be taken to check its spread. Since AIDS can be transmitted via the transfer of sexual secretions through sexual contact, one should avoid having sex with anyone who has multiple sex partners, and use a latex condom during each sexual act. HIV can spread during pregnancy from mother to the foetus. Blood or blood products can also transmit the virus and therefore, one should abstain from sharing toothbrushes, razors or other such implements. Extreme caution is advisable regarding procedures, such as tattooing, ear piercing, etc., in which needles or other non-sterile instruments may be used repeatedly to pierce the skin and/or mucous membranes. Such procedures are safe if proper sterilization methods are employed or disposable needles are used.
Recently, the sale of a condom that comes with a vibrating ring- “Crezendo”- was banned in a state because it was thought to be a sex toy. Infact, innovative products like these are a must to boost up condom sales!

Besides these measures, spreading awareness among the masses is equally important. This can be accomplished by distributing pamphlets, staging plays, putting up posters, screening short films/documentaries and airing commercials about HIV/AIDS. Also, sex education should be made a vital component of the curriculum in schools.
A primary school in Kerala is facing flak for denying admission to six HIV+ children. It is important to note that we cannot get AIDS/HIV from touching someone or sharing items, such as cups or pencils, or through coughing and sneezing. Additionally, HIV is not spread through routine contact in restaurants, the workplace or school. Unlike such immoral behavior, HIV patients should be treated at par with others. They need love, compassion and care.
According to the recent figures released by the UN, the number of people living with HIV/AIDS in India has reduced to 2.5 million, less than half of what was previously estimated. But still, there is scope for improvement.

Switching off television sets is not a solution… KNOW AIDS FOR NO AIDS!

Pratik Goel