HIV/AIDS: still a major problem in developing countries


HIV/AIDS remains one of the worlds most significant public health challenges, particularly in low- and middle-income countries. It has claimed more than 36 million lives so far. There were approximately 35.3 million people living with HIV in 2012. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV. Sixty nine per cent of all people living with HIV are living in this region.
In 2012, more than 9.7 million people living with HIV were receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART) in low- and middle-income countries.

About HIV/AIDS

The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that infects cells of the immune system, destroying or impairing their function. As the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the person becomes more susceptible to infections. The most advanced stage of HIV infection is acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). It can take 10-15 years for an HIV-infected person to develop AIDS; antiretroviral drugs can slow down the process even further.

HIV is transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse (anal or vaginal), transfusion of contaminated blood, sharing of contaminated needles, and between a mother and her infant during pregnancy, childbirth and breastfeeding.

The symptoms of HIV vary depending on the stage of infection. Though people living with HIV tend to be most infectious in the first few months, many are unaware of their status until later stages. The first few weeks after initial infection, individuals may experience no symptoms or an influenza-like illness including fever, headache, rash or sore throat.

As the infection progressively weakens the persons immune system, the individual can develop other signs and symptoms such as swollen lymph nodes, weight loss, fever, diarrhoea and cough. Without treatment, they could also develop severe illnesses such as tuberculosis, cryptococcal meningitis, and cancers such as lymphomas and Kaposis sarcoma, among others.

HIV testing should be voluntary and the right to decline testing should be recognized. Mandatory or coerced testing by a health-care provider, authority or from a partner or family member is not acceptable as it undermines good public health practice and infringes on human rights....

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