Common Information about HIV/AIDS

Modern science can successfully overcome a lot of diseases that until recent times were considered incurable, return people to normal life from the state of clinic death, ensure the survival of seriously ill newborns, extend the life in the presence of fatal disease that stops the body’s ability to cope with basic vital functions. However, a number of diseases that are widely spread among the nowadays society are incurable. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an infectious disease that represents danger for people’s lives. Two viruses, HIV-1 and HIV-2, which are the representatives of the retrovirus family, cause AIDS. They destroy white blood cells that are crucial to maintaining the human immune system. As a result, the person infected with the virus becomes less equipped to fight off infection that finally results in the development of AIDS. At the latest phase of the illness, any simple disease can be fatal, especially for those who have been ill for a long time.

Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) is among the ten top causes of human death. It is caused by Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection. HIV kills or damages the human immune system, making a person susceptible to cancer and life-threatening infections. HIV infection has reached an epidemic level in many regions of the world, and it can be referred to as pandemic.

The progression of the disease may last for up to ten years. The first signs of HIV infection may be flu-like symptoms within several days to weeks. It may develop a weight loss, lack of energy, flaky skin, any kind of sores and infections, etc. If the infection is not detected and treated, the immune system gradually weakens. AIDS is characterized with such symptoms as diarrhea, vomiting, cough, lack of coordination, mental confusion, extreme fatigue, and others.

The exact origin of this pandemic infection remains unclear. However, the most accepted theory is that immunodeficiency virus passed to people from chimpanzees during the early twentieth century in Africa. Scientists suppose that the virus infected the hunters, who ate killed infected chimpanzees, or through the animal`s blood via open wounds (Marsico, 2010).

Currently HIV spreads through unprotected sex with the infected individuals. Heterosexual intercourse accounts for a majority of cases, and male homosexuals are the group of most at-risk for HIV due to promiscuity. From the medical point of view, the anus is very susceptible to cuts and tears while conducting anal sex, and infected fluids flow into the blood stream faster. HIV may also transmit through the contact with infected blood of a HIV-positive person (particularly through blood transformation) or by sharing drug needles. Children born to women with HIV are also at high risk.

According to the information of the World Health Organization, worldwide, approximately 2.5 million people become HIV infected annually, and 34 million people live with HIV infection. Since the beginning of the HIV/AIDS epidemic, 35 million of the world population has died of AIDS, and 70 million people have got the HIV infection. Statistics of the World Health Organization shows that more than 70% of the world`s HIV infected individuals are in sub-Saharan Africa. Prevalence rates are referred to the southern African region. This region with a population of less than 2% of the world`s population has more than one-third of the world`s HIV infection (“Global health observatory”). The AIDS epidemic has its impact, not only on the health sector of the region, but also on education, industry, human resources and the economy in general. In addition, every year millions of children become orphaned by AIDS or indirectly affected by suffering due to the epidemic in their families.

There is no cure for AIDS. Appropriate treatment can only delay the onset of AIDS and help to enhance the quality and length of life for people with already destroyed immune system. Drugs against HIV include antiretroviral therapy, preventing the reproduction of the HIV in the body and delaying the progression of HIV to AIDS. People with HIV infection need to be aware of the disease and its progress so that they can apply efforts to treat the infection constantly and vigorously. HIV-positive people have to take antiretroviral drugs for all their lives.

However, some medications are not available in the developing world, where the health-care system is not well-funded, and the epidemic is raging. For example, in Somalia, Djibouti, the Dominican Republic of Congo, and Madagascar Countries, less than 19% of people needing antiretroviral drugs are getting them. It is examined that in Somalia the treatment coverage rates 3 percent, solely 878 people out of 25,000 needing antiretroviral therapy are receiving it (“HV/AIDS in Africa”). Thus, a shortage of medical professionals and poor healthcare infrastructure are impediments to antiretroviral drugs provision for the majority of African countries. Another challenge to a lot of African countries is that a sufficient amount of antiretroviral drugs is not always supplied to those countries. Maintaining of the antiretroviral drugs supply to those who are already receiving them is critically important, since interruption of treatment may result in drug resistance.

The majority of born children got the HIV during pregnancy or breastfeeding by mothers infected with the virus. Most children living with the infection and AIDS (almost 9 in 10) live in African countries, where AIDS has taken its greatest expand. HIV testing also plays an important role in the prevention of mother-to-child transmission. Such test determines whether HIV infection is present (HIV-positive), detecting antibodies to HIV or the genetic material of HIV in the blood. Pregnant HIV-positive women are treated with antiretroviral medicine to reduce the chance of transmitting HIV to their unborn babies. Beginning antiretroviral therapy early is reliant on early testing and essential to reduce the risk of HIV transmission to infants.
Though in a lot of developed countries, those steps of interventions helped to reduce mother-to-child transmission of HIV, Africa still faces the problem, because there is not enough information, services, testing facilities and drugs. Across four countries of Africa, only 1,590 of 3,244 HIV-positive pregnant women, who were delivered at health centers and offered prevention of mother-to-child transmission services, completed the process (“Preventing Mother-to-child Transmission in Practice”).

Children can also be infected with HIV through unsafe blood transfusions. The most horrible case of infections among children through unsterilized needles or blood transfusions happened in Romania in the period between 1987 and 1991, when more than ten thousand infants and children were infected with HIV through contaminated medical procedures (“Children, HIV and AIDS”). Injecting drug use accounts for HIV transmission of young people living on the street, little criminals and outcasts. Children, who become sexually active at an early age, due to the lack of sexual education and low rates of condom usage, are potentially at a high risk of getting the virus. Sexual abuse, rape, and sex work are also associated with the transmission of HIV. Since children living with HIV have weakened immune systems, they are often affected by opportunistic infections. Widespread children diseases become lingering, with complications and in many cases do not respond to treatment. Thus, HIV infected children should be diagnosed as soon as possible and provided with appropriate treatment and care, in order to delay the disease development, prevent the onset of AIDS and eliminate the mortality among HIV infected children. Yet in the countries where HIV is widespread, AIDS places an economic burden on families, making it difficult for them to provide their children with expensive medication.

In addition to antiretroviral therapy, treatment and care for HIV/AIDS include the prevention and treatment of opportunistic infections and other sexually transmitted infections, food and management of nutrition, follow-up counseling, protection from discrimination and stigma, etc. A vital part of HIV treatment and care is concluded in strengthening behavior, heightening the ability to resolve problems and conflicts, and improving life chances of people with HIV infection. HIV-positive people may feel shock, denial, anger, fear of isolation by relatives and friends, fear over how the disease will progress, worries about infecting others, and fear for death. Bearing a heavy emotional burden, people with HIV infection are depressed and require many forms of support and needs. When people have reached the final stages of AIDS, preparing for death and open discussion often helps them, ensuring concerns and support.

The causes and effects of HIV/AIDS epidemic

The causes of AIDS

As far as there is no any cure for AIDS, infected people do not have any hope for life. That is why being aware of the causes of this disease is vital importance for everybody. To be honest, HIV is not easy to catch. “HIV is not passed on easily from one person to another” (HIV and AIDS – Causes – NHS Choices n.d.). The virus can survive only inside the body and does not spread through the air like cold and flu virus. The only way of transmission is through exchange of the body fluids: semen, blood, and vaginal fluid. HIV gets an access to the body commonly at the moist surfaces either through injection or during sex. According to the research, Sex is considered to be the major way of virus transmission all over the world.
Today all the ways of HIV infection transmission are well known.

The most common ones are the following:

  • Unprotected anal or vaginal intercourse with a person who is infected with HIV.
  • Transmission of infection from mother to her child at the time of pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding (vertical transmission). Approximately 30% of the infected people get the virus in this way. It happens mainly because mothers do not follow the doctor’s instruction. “If women receive treatment for HIV infection during pregnancy, the risk to their babies is significantly reduced” (HIV/AIDS: Causes – n.d.).
  • Using contaminated needles for injections. This way of virus transmission is spread among the drug users who share needles and syringes. Beside the risk of getting HIV infection, they are endangered to be infected with other infectious diseases, for example, hepatitis.
  • Using contaminated instruments of surgery, for instance, during the circumcision.
  • Transfusion of blood. “In some cases, the virus may be transmitted through blood transfusions. American hospitals and blood banks now screen the blood supply for HIV antibodies, so this risk is very small” (HIV/AIDS: Causes – n.d.).

It is not true that a person exposed to HIV will be infected for sure. The likelihood of HIV transmission is mainly determined by concentration of virus in the fluids of the body. For instance, though saliva contains HIV, its concentration is too low for the virus to be transmitted through wet kissing as it would need nearly a liter of saliva to be exchanged between the partners before possible transmission. Just for the record, protein in saliva can inactivate the virus.

The stage of infection of the sexual partner also determines the risk of virus transmission. The virus can multiply quickly in two cases: at the first stage after the infection has been caught, when the immune system did not manage to respond and at the late stage of the disease when the immune system is finally destroyed by the virus. People with HIV infection should remember that once they become HIV-positive, their semen, vaginal fluids and blood will be infectious for good.

The effects of HIV/AIDS epidemic

HIV infection affects each person in different ways, both emotionally and physically. Some people feel physical impact of HIV almost immediately after the infection has been caught and suffer from diseases throughout their life. Others feel weak impact of the virus for many years. Many HIV-infected people are in the range “between” these two extreme cases, occasionally getting sick and having health problems. Different people react differently when having learnt that he or she is infected with HIV. Some try not to think about HIV and live not paying attention to it. For the rest people, it is hard to ignore the problem, and it becomes the major part of their lives.

HIV has considerable impact on the human immune system. Immunity is responsible for stability of protein in the body, fights with infections and pathogenic cells. The immune system has its own cells and organs. The organs of the immune system are the thymus, spleen, bone marrow, lymph nodes, and clusters of cells in the pharynx, in the small intestine and rectum. Every organ and cell performs its specific function. Thus, macrophages are designed to absorb bacteria, viruses and damaged cells. Lymphocytes are also multifunctional. They are divided into T-cells and B-cells. B-cells produce immunoglobulin – antibodies against bacteria and other compounds.

When HIV gets into the body, it affects the lymphocytes, macrophages, monocytes and other cells of the immune system that are to protect against viruses, bacteria and cancer. It leads to the destruction of the entire immune system, and the body becomes defenseless against many diseases, not even able to deal with common infections.

Physically, HIV infection may have a variety of consequences. With adequate treatment of HIV, the patient may live for many years with little or no deterioration in the quality of life, of course, eliminating the problems, which are caused by the treatment. These are the need in taking medication constantly, examination and so on.

If the treatment is not carried out, or it is not enough, HIV infection in some years can turn into AIDS, which is far more likely to cause irreversible consequences and lead to the death of the patient. Psychological trauma, which a person receives having found out about the diagnosis of HIV, as a rule, in its depth is comparable to the physical illness. Only in recent years, public opinion as to AIDS began to change. People with AIDS stop being social outcasts. However, in order to achieve the considerable results, the work should be carried for many years in this field.

One of the most noticeable effects of AIDS is poor appetite. Because of poor appetite infected patients lose their weight rapidly. Sometimes they have a diarrhea. As a result, this causes dehydration. HIV/AIDS has a huge impact on the respiratory system. Patients have the increased susceptibility to such infections as pneumocystis (carinii), jiroveci pneumonia or bacterial pneumonia. “HIV-infected patients might notice white, fuzzy patches on their tongue or inner mouth. This is usually diagnosed as oral yeast infection (thrush) or hairy oral leukoplakia. Canker sores are also common during HIV infection. Despite being unsightly and uncomfortable, these physical effects of HIV are rarely dangerous and easily treatable” (Stephan K., 2011). HIV infected people are also very depressive. They can feel confusion or difficulties with concentrating.

Thus, HIV/AIDS affects many organs of the body, including immune system, respiratory system, and gastrointestinal. General well-being of patients is getting worse and worse.

Measures Provided Against HIV/AIDS

Science HIV/AIDS is recognized as a global threat, not only the national prevention programs expand, but the Global Fund to Fight AIDS, Tuberculosis and Malaria (the Global Fund), a multi-billion dollar international organization, has also been created. HIV/AIDS funding comes from various sources, such as donors’ governments, national governments, multilateral organizations, and private foundations. Donor governments include the United States of America, European commission, the United Kingdom, Germany, Italy, Spain and others. Some international organizations (UNAIDS and World Health Organization) do not participate in the funding chain but monitor and coordinate global HIV and AIDS treatment and prevention campaigns (“Money for HIV/AIDS”). These organizations monitor and release annual reports on the global epidemic and other issues concerned HIV and AIDS. Annual reports on the global AIDS epidemic are considered on different meetings, national and international conferences, related to this issue. The Global Fund has its own long-awaited finding model and grant system.
Currently HIV/AIDS funds are invested into researching the disease, prevention measures, spreading information about HIV/AIDS among the population and making HIV testing more available. Researchers are working over two types of HIV vaccines – preventive and therapeutic.

Different communities and foundations all over the world organize HIV prevention actions and programs aimed to implement and popularize HIV prevention methods. Their efforts are also focused on the education about those methods, which eliminate the risk of HIV transmission. They include promoting of safe sex measures with the use of condoms, sex education and family, preventing the use of shared needles or illicit drugs, avoidance of contact with fluids and blood by wearing protective gloves, masks, etc. Within organ donor programs and blood banks donors, blood, and tissues are examined thoroughly to eliminate those with HIV infection and prevent the risk of transmission. Successful HIV prevention campaigns not only give information, but also provide population with essential commodities such as sterile injecting equipment and condoms.

The 1st of September was declared to be World AIDS Day, and the red ribbon became the universal symbol of significant awareness and support for people living with this disease. World AIDS Day is aimed to increase awareness, improve health education, and mobilize human and financial resources, to improve human response to HIV and AIDS, fight stigma and discrimination. This day gives the world a chance to react to this global problem, make treatment, care and prevention measures comprehensive. All over the world, lots of activities, such as art shows, charitable concerts, candle light vigils, marches, take place to mark World AIDS Day and provide vulnerable individuals and families with some sort of external support.

However, the burden of the epidemic continues to spread considerably over the countries and regions. Vital sources of protection for people affected by HIV and AIDS are supported and strengthened globally, including appropriate testing, access to antiretroviral drugs, efficient linkages to care and treatment, support for individuals and families. A great emphasis should be put not only on the amount and availability of antiretroviral drugs, but also the number of professionals who are able to manage the course of treatment. The researches of HIV vaccines, their consequences, cofactors and risk factors, investigating of the use of immune-boosting medication should be constantly funded. The essential tenets for the epidemic prevention are based on a good understanding of the disease aetiology and progression. Worldwide prevention strategies should be based on reaching people with knowledge on sexual health and drug abuse through school, the media, and outreach. Global forces need to be focused on pathogenesis and the factual causes of AIDS in sub-Saharan Africa, strengthening health infrastructure of those countries, reducing the poverty, implementing health education for the population.

Improving the Well-Being of Individuals Living with HIV/AIDS

People living with HIV/AID have been the most challenging ailment because there is no any proved medication which is curing the disease. They therefore mainly depend on medical care which improves their health status to live much longer. I have been hired recently by a community mental health center which serves a large metropolitan area. In the organization I am expected to join other professionals with an aim of developing programs which will improve the well-being of individuals who are living with HIV/AIDS.

For the excise to be successful it is paramount that each of the team members understands the research which is done on individual who are living with HIV/AIDS. The main objectives which the team should be able achieve in the research is to understand the factors which influences well-being of individuals living with HIV/AIDS and the interventions which could be beneficial to this group of individuals. The research will obtain the necessary materials from the articles which are written about how to improve the wellbeing of people living with HIV/Aids. Therefore, the research shall summarize the articles and obtain the necessary skills and background information required in formulation of a successful medical program which will take care of patients living with HIV/Aids.

According to the research which was done by Bower (1998) among others in their article which they published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology, they did a research which investigated on whether HIV-related stressor is in any way associated with changes in immunity status of people living with HIV/Aids. The research was done on forty HIV seropositive men who have been recently diagnosed with AIDs.

The men who were included in the research enabled the research team to understand Aids related mortality rate and its causes so that they would implement control measures which would mitigate such loss. The research also evaluated on the CD4 T cell levels of the patients and how the rates are related to mortality of the patients. The result of the research was meant to be linked with positive health outcomes and immunologic.

The article also emphasized on the importance of how people living with Aids are affected by the way they respond to stressful life events. According to the research which was done it was evident that people who are not able to handle their stress have high possibility of influencing their immune status and mostly their physical health. Therefore, it is advisable for people who are living with Aids to control and stressful events which they encounter and make sure they are able to control such stress. This will be beneficial because they will be to improve their immune status. The study which was done in the field of psychoneuroimmunology proved that exposure to stressful experiences is associated with changes which occur in human immune system.

Cognitive Behavioral Stress Management

According to Carrico Et al (2005) good stress management for people living with Aids enable them to avoid encounter with stressor. They are therefore able to control their moodiness which in turn boosts their immunity. One of the most effective methods which were discovered which enables the patients to respond to stressful experience is to confront the reality of the stressor and be able to effectively consider its implication on someone. For someone to effectively cope with these experiences they are required to rework on the assumptions about the world to be able to accommodate the situation in which they are. The research also concluded that cognitive processing would be associated with physical and well-being which follows a stressful experience. Those people who are able to control stressors visited health centers less frequently and are much healthier and generally happy as compared to those who have been undergoing stressful moments.

Aerobic Exercise Intervention

According to O’Brien Et al 2004 use of aerobics and exercising improves the wellbeing, body fitness and image of people who are living with Aid’s. The research conducted also proved that exercising would be used as strategy by health providers to mitigate chronic health problems which are caused by HIV infections. It was evident that effects of aerobics were mostly effective to those who were participating in excises and aerobic often or at intervals.

The research proved that use of aerobic exercises improves on the heath of patients living with Aids. Therefore, it is encouraged most patients to be actively involved in aerobics as they have proved too beneficial and safe to the adults who have been participating in it. After the analysis of the research which was done it concluded that it’s advisable to have at least 20 minutes of excises three times a week for it to be effective to people living with Aids. Such excises were found to be helpful by improving psychological wellbeing and cardiopulmonary fitness.

Social Effect

According to Pakenham Et al. (1994) people who are living with aids needs a lot of emotional support as most of them are stigmatized and the society does not support them. Following the research which was done and published in Journal of Consulting and Clinical Psychology it was evident that social support by the society in which they live improves on their wellbeing and promotes their activities in the society.

Due to social support by the society they would feel that they are loved and valued hence they would participate actively to activities of the society. Socialization also makes them have a feeling that they are valued by the society in which they live and such positive aspect of life makes them to be more psychologically aware that they are not an outcast. It is evident that cultural backgrounds and ways of life which do not support those who were living with Aids are most prone to be in more risks of their health deteriorating as they do not have moral support by the society which has positive psychological effects. Social support in a society would be promoted by social workers, Non governmental organizations, religious organizations and society in general should participate actively in activities which will promote social support to the patients living with Aids.

According to Schreibman & Friedland, (2003) counseling is very important in promotion of health living of people who are living with aids. According to the research done non punitive and supportive counseling provides a comfortable setting which provides a motivational interviewing and interactive counseling. During such sessions people who are living with Aids have opportunity of discussing their worries with counselors who in turn supports them with advice on what is expected of them.

The other effective mode of counseling which also proved to be effective is goal directed counseling. This type of counseling is determined by the counselors after evaluating the states of people who are living with aids and indentify what kind of counseling they require. This type of counseling is effective mostly to a large population and would be used in a form of seminar or training gathering which materials to be trained are prepared in advance to meet the need of the group which is being counseled. The other form of counseling is individualized counseling which the counselor tailor the training to meet the needs of an individual hence it is highly personalized.

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