Rightly stated, HIV/AIDS is the worst pandemic the world has ever faced in the last two decades. Whereas AIDS is a condition in which the immune system is rendered defenseless, HIV is the virus causing it .When one gets infected with the virus, the immune system is attacked and weakened, becoming prone to opportunistic infections. One is said to be suffering from AIDS when one or more of such infections attack. But how is the virus transmitted from one person to another? What are its infection processes? This paper proceeds to give an analytical response to these questions, in a bid to present a comprehensive understanding of the details about the pandemic.
It may be worthwhile to mention that the effects of the virus on an individual after infection vary from person to person. On one end, some people will remain virtually healthy with no signs of any illness, whereas others may be diagnosed with AIDS, eventually developing fatal opportunistic infections (Bachrach, 2012). In spite of this disparity, the end result of infected people tends to be the same, since once a person is infected, one remains with the virus for the rest of one’s life as there is currently no cure or vaccine. Those affected have a wide range of psychological, physical, and social needs that must be taken care of (Johanson, 2008). It is for this reason that education on HIV/AIDS is important, so that people may be more enlightened on the modes of transmission and infection. As often uttered, prevention is better than cure.
In addition to attacking cells of the immune system, the HIV virus also infects the central nervous system (Ragin, 2011). A central component of the immune system that is infected by the virus is the T-helper cells, whose function is to co-ordinate actions of other cells in the system. It goes without saying that the immune system with a highly reduced number of T-helper cells is highly weakened. Encounter with an infected person does not always result in transmission to the uninfected person. Probabilities of leading to infection vary depending on the nature of exposure. Physical symptoms do not necessarily develop after infection. Although most viral infections do not show any signs, most victims of HIV will eventually develop and show signs of disease (Wagner, 2008). This is due to damage of tissues and cells of the infected person. In some instances, the virus directly kills cells. The exact nature of signs and symptoms in a specific individual is influenced by factors like sex, age, genetic make-up, environmental factors, and interaction with other infectious agents. HIV infection occurs in four stages. These include the primary infection (window stage and seroconversion), clinically asymptomatic stage, symptomatic HIV infection, and progression from HIV to AIDS (Wagner, 2008).
The primary stage marks the period when one obtains the virus, and apart from mild flu-like signs, there are no major symptoms exhibited. The asymptomatic stage is marked by mild symptoms like swollen glands. HIV level in peripheral blood remains low, though infected people are still infectious. Antibody tests will show a positive result for HIV at this stage. Subsequent stages are characterized by visible symptoms that include skin rashes, encephalopathy, severe headaches, fever, memory losses and personality changes (Ragin, 2011). There is more destruction of T-helper cells.
Even a more important aspect of the HIV/AIDS issue that should be a motivation for more public education is the mode of transmission of the virus. The virus is usually present in cervical secretions, semen and body fluids like blood and plasma. As such, it follows that the transmission occurs through sexual contact (unprotected sex), intravenous drug use or use of contaminated piercing instruments, occupational setting (exposure in the health care setting), mother-child transmission, and transmission through blood transfusion (Johanson, 2008). (Bachrach, & Knox, 2012)
Clearly, transmission can be prevented or at the worst minimized if enough care is taken. People should be enlightened on the modes of transmission and ways of infection. It is commendable that governments are now having more budgetary allocations towards HIV awareness and prevention. Individual responsibility should remain central in the fight against HIV. This way, instances where entire regions have been wiped out could be avoided. Perhaps, saving the world from this pandemic is easier than is usually thought. Personal efforts and responsibility could make all the difference in the tussle that has always persisted in the modern society. Without any doubt, I strongly agree with Ragin’s thoughts about the HIV/AIDS infection and transmission.
Bachrach, J., & Knox, C. B. (2012). HIV & AIDS benchbook. Chicago: American Bar Association, AIDS Coordinating Committee.
Johanson, P. (2008). HIV AIDS. United States: ReadHowYouWant.
Ragin, D. F. (2011). Health psychology: An interdisciplinary approach to health. Upper Saddle River, N.J: Pearson Education/Prentice Hall.
Wagner, V. (2008). AIDS. Farmington Hills, MI: Greenhaven Press.