(Primary Health Care)
AIDS stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. It is an infectious
disease that is spread by a virus. It is called a ‘syndrome’ because
it consists of several sings and symptoms. In many African countries it is
now the major cause of premature death.
Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is what is known as a retrovirus.
Little is known about its origin or the ways in which it can be cured.
The virus enters the T-helper cells of
the immune system. It then destroys genetic material within the T-helper
cells. The damage it causes is PERMANENT. All body fluids contain t-helper
cells but the highest concentration can be found in blood, semen and
Who can carry the virus?
Anyone with virus can infect someone else. It is common for a carrier to
not know that they are infected with the virus. Carriers may have no
obvious signs that they are carriers. A person can be a carrier for many
years before they fall ill. So, it’s is really the responsibility of
individuals to be aware that Aids/HIV can strike anybody.
A few months after someone has
contracted HIV their body begins to produce antibodies to the virus. These
anti bodies can be detected by a special test. In most countries at least
one hospital can offer this test. Anyone who thinks they may have been in
contact with a carrier should have the test as soon as possible.
How might you have come into contact with a carrier?
HIV is spread when blood, semen or
vaginal secretion of an infected person comes in contact with the blood or
mucous membranes of a healthy person. The virus is spread by:
sexual intercourse between two people of the same or
opposite sex, when one of the partners is infected
by transfusion of infected blood
by infected needles used by drug users who inject themselves
with a substance
by an infected mother to her unborn child
When can you NOT catch HIV/Aids
The virus is NOT spread by:
using some else’s plates or cups
eating the same food as a carrier
drinking the same water as a carrier
How to prevent the spread of aids
There is no vaccine against Aids and, as
yet no medicine to stop its spread within a person. Some multi-drug
combinations do exist but they are (a) expensive and (b) only a slowing
down agent, they do not cure a sufferer. So, your life style is the way in
which you can prevent the spread of aids!
The desire for sexual activity is a normal part
of human behaviour. Many young people now feel pressure from their peers
to begin experimenting with sexual activity at a young age. It is quite
common for a young girl to be menstruating in her early teenage years and
then she is able to reproduce. Similarly, a young boy can mature into a
sexually mature male in his early teenage years. It is the pressure to
experiment with these new feelings and abilities that can lead young
people into very dangerous situations. The risk of catching aids increases
as a young person sleeps with more partners. To them it may seem exciting
but the risks are high. To be safe a young person who is sexually active
should (a) use a condom and (b) have one faithful sexual partner.