What Causes AIDS ?
AIDS is caused by HIV.
HIV is a virus that gradually attacks immune system cells. As HIV progressively damages these cells, the body becomes more vulnerable to infections, which it will have difficulty in fighting off. It is at the point of very advanced HIV infection that a person is said to have AIDS. If left untreated, it can take around ten years before HIV has damaged the immune system enough for AIDS to develop.
Is There any Cure for AIDS ?
Worryingly, many people think there is a ‘cure’ for AIDS – which makes them feel safer, and perhaps take risks that they otherwise wouldn’t. However, there is still no cure of AIDS. The only way to stay safe is to be aware of how HIV is transmitted and how to prevent HIV infection.
Around 2.6 million people became infected with HIV in 2009. Sub-Saharan Africa has been hardest hit by the epidemic; in 2009 over two-thirds of AIDS deaths were in this region.
The Global AIDS Epidemic
The epidemic has had a devastating impact on societies, economies and infrastructures. In countries most severely affected, life expectancy has been reduced by as much as 20 years. Young adults in their productive years are the most at-risk population, so many countries have faced a slow-down in economic growth and an increase in household poverty. HIV and AIDS in Asia causes a greater loss of productivity than any other disease. An adult’s most productive years are also their most reproductive and so many of the age group who have died from AIDS have left children behind. In sub-Saharan Africa the AIDS epidemic has Orphaned nearly 15 million children.
In recent years, the response to the epidemic has been intensified; from 2002-2008 spending on HIV AIDS in low- and middle-income countries increased 6-fold. Since 2008, spending has not increased so substantially, but it is still significantly higher than it was before 2002. The number of people on antiretroviral treatment has increased, the annual number of AIDS deaths has declined, and the global percentage of people infected with HIV has stabilised.
However, recent achievements should not lead to complacent attitudes. In all parts of the world, people living with HIV still face AIDS related stigma and discrimination, and many people still cannot access sufficient HIV treatment and care. In Eastern Euroup infection rates are rising, and in Western Euroup and America there are still tens of thousands of new infections each year – indicating that HIV Prevention is just as important now as it ever has been. Prevention efforts that have proved to be effective need to be scaled-up and treatment targets reached. Commitments from national governments right down to the community level need to be intensified and subsequently met, so that one day the world might see an end to the global AIDS epidemic.