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COMPREHENSIVE LISTING OF QUERIES ON HIV / AIDS


Some additional information / facts about HIV/AIDS are presented here for your reference, to help you answer your daughter's queries.

1.
How does HIV weaken the body's immune system?
The HIV virus destroys certain white blood corpuscles in human blood. These are called the T4 or T-helper cells. For instance, when a germ attacks the human body the T-helper cells multiply. Each one contains a chemical that can destroy the disease germs.

But it's a different story with the HIV virus. It destroys these T- helper cells leading to a breakdown of the defense system, making the body vulnerable to infection or cancer, which it would otherwise be able to resist. These are called opportunistic infections.

2.
Where can you find the HIV virus?
All body fluids contain HIV virus, but there is high concentration in the blood, semen, vaginal fluids and breast milk.

3.
HIV generally infects a person through:
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Unprotected sex with someone who's already infected.
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Using the same syringe or needle used by an HIV patient.
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Blood transfusions by someone who has HIV virus.
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HIV infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions in open wounds or sores.
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When an infected needle or surgical instrument is used.
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Perinatal transmission, when a mother passes on the virus to her child during birth.

4.
Can you get HIV by donating blood ?
One cannot get infected with the HIV virus if the syringes and needles used to collect blood are used only once.

5.
If in future I require blood transfusion could I contract the HIV virus?
Similarly, one cannot contract the HIV virus if the blood transfusion is screened.

6.
What does a screened blood transfusion mean ?
Before the blood transfusion the donor is tested for HIV. If his test shows HIV Negative, only then will he be a possible candidate for blood transfusion.

7.
What is the meaning of HIV positive ?
Like any other disease, when the human body contracts HIV, it produces certain anti-bodies. If these are detected then the person is HIV positive.

8.
How long does it take to develop the antibodies, if once infected with the HIV virus ?
It takes roughly 3-6 months to develop antibodies to the virus, so it is possible that during the time, when infection occurs and when the antibody levels are high enough to be detected, the HIV test will be negative. This is known as the 'window period' which is why it is necessary to do a repeat test after 3-6 months of exposure. The window period, however, will vary from person to person.

9.
Is it possible to have privacy and confidentiality while testing ?
Yes, one can be tested confidentially or anonymously (anonymous is when your name is not used).

10.
What are the tests that can be done to investigate AIDS ?
There are blood tests, which determine if a person is infected with the HIV virus.
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These tests detect for the presence of antibodies to the HIV virus.
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There are two main tests :
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ELISA Test (Enzyme Linked Immuno Sorbent Assay).
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Western Blot Test confirms the ELISA test.

11.
If a pregnant woman is HIV positive, what steps should she follow?
She should consult a health care provider who knows about the HIV disease. The doctor will also discuss the PMTCT program (Prevention Mother to Child Transmission) which is available in key hospitals across the country.

12.
Does an HIV infected mother pass the HIV infection to her child ?
Statistics have revealed that roughly 20% to 35% of the babies born to an HIV infected mother are also infected.

13.
Are there any tests to determine if the baby born of an HIV infected mother is also infected ?
HIV infected mothers pass on the HIV antibodies to their child so the antibody test will prove to be positive irrespective that the child may be infected or not. Therefore, a repeat test after 6 to 9 months of birth will reveal the true result.

14.
Are there any precautions that the infected mother should take to reduce the chances of HIV transmission to the baby ?
The use of anti viral drug zidovadine possibly reduces the risk of transmission of the virus from the mother to the baby. A pregnant woman should consider the option of wanting to continue her pregnancy or not, specially upto the 1st trimester i.e. 13 weeks of pregnancy.

15.
Can an HIV positive mother breast feed a child ?
Though an HIV positive mother has HIV present in the breast milk, but the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends the HIV infected mother should breast feed her child because the advantages of breastfeeding outweigh it’s disadvantage. Moreover, the concentration of the virus in the breast milk is unlikely to cause HIV infection in the baby. However, there are many controversies whether the mother should or should not breastfeed the baby.

16.
Signs and Symptoms
Whenever an HIV enters the person's body, the person may not show the signs and symptoms of AIDS for about 5-10 years, then gradually when the person's immune system starts failing the signs of AIDS develop.

The initial symptoms
The first sign of infection can often be a swollen lymph gland (nodular swelling) in the throat, armpit, neck or groin. This is accompanied by low grade fever, headache, fatigue, muscle aches and further swollen glands. After which, there may usually be no symptoms for many years after that.

The later symptoms of the disease
The patient starts feeling very weak with periods of extreme unexplained fatigue and there is a rapid loss of weight about more than 10% of the body weight that is not due to increased physical exercises or dieting. There may be severe numbness or pain in the hands and feet with loss of muscular strength and muscular reflexes. The patient's tongue gets coated white due to a yeast infection called Thrush, and may also experience repeated throat infections. They may experience recurring fevers, night sweats, periods of deep dry coughing and increasing shortness of the breath, unexplained repeated bouts of diarrhoea. There is a frequent occurrence of severe infections like hapezzoster, chronic pelvic inflammatory infections, and certain infections called the opportunistic infection commonest of which is tuberculosis, which adds to their debility. There is swelling and hardening of glands in the armpit and groin, recurring and unusual skin rashes or appearance of discoloured or purplish growth (Kaposi Sarcoma) on the skin or even inside the mouth, with unexplained bleeding from growths on the skin or the mucous membrane or from an opening in the body ultimately leading to an altered state of consciousness.

17.
Is there any way to know if a person has HIV?
Only testing can prove the presence of the disease.

18.
How can I protect myself from getting an HIV infection?
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Don't have sexual intercourse with a person who is HIV positive.
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Don't do drugs. Also refuse to use a needle once used by an HIV infected person.
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Don't share personal items, which could possibly be soiled with blood, with an HIV positive individual e.g. tooth brushes, razors, etc.
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For safer, healthier sex, exercise good judgment and self-control.

19.
Is there any vaccine or drug to prevent AIDS ?
All the extensive research to find the drug or a vaccine in the prevention and cure of AIDS has been unsuccessful. However, the anti viral drug zinovadine is known to help slowing down the process of the HIV infection. It is important to note that all these medicines are very expensive and are known to cause side effects. A popularly known cocktail therapy which is basically an anti retro viral therapy, which is given to the AIDS does not cure the disease though it may prolong the life of the patient.

20.
Could a complete exchange blood transfusion with fresh
uninfected blood bring about a cure ?
HIV infection does not only occur in the blood, but also affects the tissues and organs like the brain, liver, spleen and bone marrow. Therefore, even a complete blood transfusion will not free the person of the infection. There has been no known cure for AIDS today.

21.
What does the AIDS person ultimately die of ?
As the HIV infection attacks body's defence mechanism, their immunity is at the lowest, so a person succumbs to opportunistic infections like TB, diarrhoea, pneumonia and certain types of cancers in the final stage of the disease.

22.
Does AIDS prove to be fatal for all those who have it?
At present there is no cure for AIDS though many people have lived with AIDS for many years. New research, developments and treatments could result in people with AIDS living longer.

23.
What is safe sex?
Every individual must decide what risks he / she will take for sexual pleasure.
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Safer sex means taking care to reduce the risk of contracting Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) including HIV / AIDS. With safe sex methods, one essentially reduce contact with a partner's body fluids like ejaculation from male penis (semen), vaginal fluids, blood and discharges from open sore.
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Safer sex will reduce the risk, but does not totally eliminate the risk. Like say, using a condom correctly may reduce but does not eliminate the risk for transmission of the virus.
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Partners with open sores on the genitals, caused either from herpes or other infections, get HIV more easily than other people, so in such cases the sexual partners should be tested and treated for sexually transmitted diseases every year.
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Good judgment and self-control are the basis of safer and healthier sex. Opt for monogamy (one sex partner) with an uninfected partner.
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Of course, the most reliable way to avoid transmission of STDs including HIV is to abstain from sexual intercourse.

24.
Unsafe sex
At present there is no cure for AIDS though many people have lived with AIDS for many years. New research, developments and treatments could result in people with AIDS living longer.
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Unprotected vaginal, anal and oral sex with an infected person carries a high risk of disease transmission.
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Anal sex is risky because it can result in tiny tears or cuts in the rectum, through which the virus can enter the body easily. Homosexuals who indulge in a lot of anal sex have a high probability of being infected with the HIV virus.
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Use of drugs and alcohol increases the risk of getting STD or HIV / AIDS because people under their influence may be less careful about practicing safer sex.