Since sex education is something we all missed out on while growing up ( because obviously, there were none ), I’ve decided to write a small article discussing various aspects of sexual heath we should all be aware of, especially focusing on the much hyped and much taboo-ed disease: AIDS.

AIDS, short for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome is caused by the virus HIV ( Human Immunofdeficiency Virus ). HIV was discovered in 1981 and since then AIDS has killed more than 28 million people that we know of, with up to 3.6 million people dying in 2005 alone. It is presently uncurable although there are certain treatments available, also there is no vaccine to protect against it.

So how does one ‘catch’ the virus?

The most frequent mode of transmission of HIV is through sexual contact with an affected person. Sharing contaminated intravenous needles is another mode of transmission of the virus. Other modes are breastfeeding (mother to child) and transmission from mother to child during pregnancy and during delivery

HIV does not transmit through the air or surface contact like cold and flu viruses do. HIV is a fragile virus and doesn’t survive well outside the human body.

It is important to note that HIV does NOT spread through saliva, insects, hugging, shaking hands, touching, sharing food, swimming in the same pool or sitting next to someone.

So how do you know you have HIV?

The only way to be sure is to get a test done, but here are some possible symptoms:

1. Fever; accompanied by swollen lymph glands and sore throats.

2. Fatigue.

3. Achy muscles, joint pains, headache.

4. Skin rash.

5. Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea.

6. Weight loss.

7. Pneumonia

8. Night sweats.

9. Nail changes, such as clubbing (thickening and curving of the nails), splitting of the nails, or discoloration (black or brown lines going either vertically or horizontally).

10. Yeast infections.

11. Confusion or difficulty concentrating.

12. Cold sores or genital herpes.

13. Menstrual irregularities.

Some people develop HIV symptoms shortly after being infected. But it usually takes more than 10 years. That is why it can be hard to know if you have HIV.

Like mentioned earlier, there is no cure for AIDS. However, if you have HIV/AIDS, you can take combinations of medicines called “cocktails.” The drug cocktails are designed to strengthen the immune system to keep HIV from developing into AIDS or to relieve AIDS symptoms. These drugs are often very expensive, may have serious and very uncomfortable side effects, and may not be available to everyone. But thanks to the “cocktails” for the immune system and improved therapies for the symptoms of AIDS, people are now able to live with HIV/AIDS for many years.

They say it’s better to be safe than sorry. Hence it is always advised to take preventive measures against HIV/AIDS.

1. Always use condoms during sex. They reduce the risk by a whooping 80%. Women can use a female condom too. Also use water based lubricants only.

2. During oral sex use a dental dam or a condom.

3. It’s important to tell your partner(s) if you’re HIV positive.

4. Always use clean, sterile needles to inject drugs.

5. If you’re pregnant and you’re HIV positive, you may pass on the virus to your child. Consult a doctor immediately after conceiving. If you receive treatments during pregnancy, you reduce 2/3rd the risk of transmission of the virus to your baby.

AIDS stigma exists around the world in a variety of ways, including ostracism, rejection, discrimination and avoidance of HIV infected people. Often, AIDS stigma is expressed in conjunction with one or more other stigmas, particularly those associated with homosexuality, bisexuality, promiscuity, prostitution, and intravenous drug use.

Young people remain at the centre of the HIV/AIDS epidemic in terms of rates of infection, vulnerability, impact, and potential for change. They have grown up in a world changed by AIDS but many still lack comprehensive and correct knowledge about how to prevent HIV infection. Hence WE NEED TO BE AWARE OF THIS DISEASE. We need to bust the myths and the stigmas, we need to spread proper awareness and methods of prevention. We need to get the facts about HIV, resist pressure to have sex, drink and inject drugs, talk to parents, doctors and other trusted adults about HIV and sexual health and get tested.

Stay well-informed, stay safe, stay healthy.

Ipsita Kabiraj

Living life one book at a time :) Namasté.

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