World AIDS Day is observed on 1st December every year. As per the World Health Organization (W.H.O.), "The day is an opportunity for public and private partners to spread awareness about the status of the pandemic and encourage progress in HIV/AIDS prevention, treatment and care around the world".
For us at Ziqitza Healthcare Limited, as an Emergency Service Provider, we are at the forefront with the various state government and corporates to ensure that our services which are so critical are not hampered at all.
As the COVID-19 pandemic is ravaging the globe, a similar global scare was generated when HIV illness was first detected and when it spread around the world in 1980s. This day is also observed to remind people that HIV/AIDS has not gone away and continues to be a public health threat. This can be seen from the WHO data for the year 2019. As per the estimate, 1.7 million persons were newly infected, 0.7 million persons died due to HIV related causes and 39 million people are currently living with HIV.
As per W.H.O., there is a disruption in HIV related health care activities in many countries due to COVID-19 pandemic. The cited causes are drug supply issues, shortage of health care workers, restriction of movements and financial constraints. Behavioral fatigue in COVID-19 precautions is causing second wave in many countries. Failure to take precautions against HIV/AIDs also can be disastrous.Given below the same has been explained by Dr. Santosh Datar from Ziqitza Healthcare Limited:
What is HIV & AIDS?
HIV infection is caused by Human Immunodeficiency virus which attacks the immune system of the body. Since this immune system defends the body against infections, its weakening results in increased susceptibility to many infections and some cancers.
If HIV remains undiagnosed and untreated for many years, it leads to AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). AIDS is defined by the development of certain cancers, infections or other severe long-term clinical manifestations.
How HIV is transmitted?
The doctors at Ziqitza in all their discussions emphasizes HIV is transmitted from person to person through exchange of body fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and from infected mother to fetus.
The behavioral risk factors of transmission of HIV are unprotected sexual intercourse with an infected partner, multiple sexual partners, using contaminated needles and syringes for narcotic drug abuse, unsafe injections, unsafe blood transfusion and accidental need stick injury.
HIV is not transmitted by casual contact such as hugging, kissing, shaking hands, sharing personal objects or through food and water.
What are the symptoms and signs of HIV infection?
Ziqitza Corporate Wellness Webinars continuously reinforces that the person when infected with HIV virus may show initial symptoms of viral infection such as fever, headache, rash or sore throat. Many may not experience any symptoms at all.
As the infection progressively weakens the immune system, the HIV positive person can develop symptoms and signs symptoms, such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis (TB), cryptococcal meningitis, severe bacterial infections, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposi's sarcoma.
How HIV is diagnosed?
HIV can be readily diagnosed by a blood test. However, a positive test needs reconfirmation to rule out any potential testing or reporting error as is advice given by Dr. Santosh Datar from Ziqitza.
All HIV testing services must follow the WHO-recommended principles known as the "5 Cs" viz. informed Consent, Confidentiality, Counselling(pre-test & post-test), Correct test results and Connection (linkage to care, treatment and other services).
HIV testing services should be easily accessible and affordable for patients.
Once the patient is confirmed to be HIV positive, a counseling session is a must to help to deal with the emotional issues since it is devastating news for the person.
All high-risk individuals should be counseled and encouraged to take the test.
The testing facility also should be linked to Tuberculosis and STDs(Sexually Transmitted Diseases) health care services.
How HIV is treated?
HIV patients can be treated with a group of drugs called ARV (Anti-retroviral drugs). The decision for treatment is taken based on clinical guidelines.
The treatment must be lifelong.
However, current treatment does not cure HIV infection but highly suppresses HIV virus replication in the body. This facilitates body's immune system to recover and regain capacity to fight infections.
The effective treatment also reduces risk of transmission to others.
How HIV can be prevented?
This is the most critical question which needs to be answered and understood so that people keep this in mind in future as remarked by Dr. Santosh Datar from Ziqitza Healthcare Ltd.
Prevention of HIV is linked to reduction of risk as outlined earlier.
Safe sex practices, safe blood transfusion, safe injections and elimination of mother to child transmission are keys to HIV prevention.
Consistent and correct use of male and female condoms is advocated to reduce the risk of not only HIV but other sexually transmitted diseases. Studies have shown that male latex condoms when used correctly and consistently have 85 % or greater protective effect.
Testing and counseling of all individuals exposed to risk factors is strongly recommended. This makes people aware of their HIV status and educates them to adopt safe practices.
Every pregnant mother should be tested for HIV. If found positive, ARV should be given to mother to prevent transmission to child during labor and breastfeeding.
All persons who use injectable narcotic drugs should be counseled, tested and offered drug dependence therapy. They are also motivated to adopt safe injection practices.
Any person exposed to risk of HIV transmission such as needle stick injury is given post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) treatment with ARV within 72 hours to reduce risk.
HIV negative partner of a HIV positive person also can be given pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP) treatment with ARV before the potential exposure.
It is important to stop stigmatization and discrimination against HIV positive persons. The discrimination leads to patients not coming forward for testing and treatment thus leading to further spread.
The core thought of Ziqitza counselling is to follow measures that include creating awareness, training more mental health professionals, making the mental health services easily accessible for all, making appropriate laws to prevent stigmatisation and discrimination of a mentally ill person. Physical and mental health are two sides of the same coin. An individual can promote positive health by adopting healthy life style measures such as adequate sleep, nutritious diet, regular physical exercise, keeping weight, blood pressure and blood sugar under control, refraining from alcohol, tobacco, and other addictive substances, stress management and practising yoga, meditation and relaxation techniques.Doctors at Ziqitza Rajasthan also believes in the spreading awareness regarding HIV& AIDS to ensure timely prevention of the disease.
About Ziqitza Healthcare Limited:
Ziqitza had been set up with a vision to assist in saving human lives by providing a leading network of fully equipped Advanced and Basic Life Support Ambulances across the developing world. ZHL has currently more than 10,000 people working tirelessly, day and night, to serve people in India. ZHL is currently operating more than 3300 ambulances across 16 states and have served more than 28 million people till date.