Dr. Shahzad Akram
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What is HIV / AIDS?

AIDS is the abbreviated name of a disease that stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. The disease is caused by a virus called HIV, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus. The infection is also called "HIV Seroconversion Syndrome" or "Acute Retroviral Syndrome". The name has been made up from the words which indicate the characteristics of this disease:

Acquired: Because the virus travels from person to person and can be acquired from each other.
Immune Deficiency: It gradually weakens and destroys the immune system, which is the body's natural system to fight diseases.
Syndrome: Because it creates numerous health problems which make up a disease.

How AIDS spreads

AIDS is present in almost all the countries but in some it is spreading like epidemic. New cases are detected everyday. The governmental and non-governmental agencies are trying to educate the people on how to prevent AIDS but so far the spread has not stopped. Known sources of spread are:

  • Intimate sexual contact
  • Use of infected needles and syringes for injection
  • Use of infected razor etc.
  • Transfusion of infected blood or related products
  • Through the placenta from the mother to the fetus
  • Rarely through breastfeeding
  • Possibly through oral contact if the infected person has open sores in the mouth or bleeding gums.

AIDS does not spread from:

- Casual contacts like shaking or holding hands
- Sitting with or hugging the infected person
- Sneezing and coughs
- Mosquitoes and flies
- Moving around with the infected person. So the sufferer does not have to be segregated, hated or discriminated. He should be treated and helped like other patients.

What happens after infection

Infection from HIV and sickness from AIDS are two different things. It may take years before AIDS is developed but it is still not necessary that every person infected with HIV will inevitably progress to AIDS, though most of them do. There is a considerable period between infection and appearance of symptoms of AIDS, which may vary from few months to 10 years or even more depending on the health and strength of immune system of the person. During this period, the individual will have no symptoms at all. This is why it is called "symptom free period". In certain cases the body itself may eliminate the disease but this may happen in very few cases. During this symptom-free period, the blood test for HIV is not likely to be positive but one can infect other people.

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