HIV and AIDS: Facts and Forewarning in the context of Bangladesh

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is an infectious agent that gradually makes our ability to fight disease weaker. Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) is an infectious disease that gradually leads to death when left untreated. It is caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and has been following a steady increase in its first identification back in the 1980s.

This virus was reported for the first time in 1981 in the U.S.A. but the most affected populations are in the sub-Saharan Africa. Every year many thousands of people from children to adults are being infected, therefore HIV is a major public health concern.

HIV is a kind of lentivirus that belongs to the retrovirus family. HIV is of two major types named as HIV-1 and HIV-2. Among the two types, HIV-1 is the leading cause of infection and AIDS all over the world. Infected individuals traveling to different countries and having unsafe sexual intercourse cause mixing of different HIV subtypes. Genetic materials are spread and the genetics of HIV-1 infection becomes more complex to identify. Precise diagnosis is necessary to deal with the infection.

The infection transmits from person to person through various ways including blood, semen and even breast milk. Unprotected sex with the infected individual, sharing needles and taking drugs are common ways of transmission. Approximately 37 million people have been living with HIV in the world in 2016 and contributing to the significant death-toll in different parts of the world.

The eastern and southern parts of Africa are found to be the most affected. According to Global Health Observatory (GHO) data, the number of people infected with HIV is about 70 million since the beginning of HIV epidemic. The number of people decreased the amount to half of the number of infected individuals (35 million). The World Health Organization says that the people in the age group (15-49 years) have a global infection prevalence of 0.8% but for sub-Saharan Africa, the number is 4.4%.

The significant number of people living all around the world with HIV is a real burden to global health. In 2016 alone, the number of newly infected people worldwide is 1.8 million and 1 million people were reported to die from the AIDS-associated illness. The real burden of this statistics is, unfortunately, the children. 2.1 million children (<15 years) are to be living with this infection. However, there is also data to be optimistic about the fight against this disease. Almost 20 million people have access to antiretroviral therapy (ART) as of 2016 and it helped reduce the number of mortality (1 million in 2016).

Bangladesh, an emerging entity of the south-east Asia, is also a victim of this deadly disease. The so-called social dogma could not save it from the consistent increase in the number of infected individuals. Putting aside the dispute materials, it is so evident that the true statistics are not even close enough. Again, the so-called social dogma!

However, the official number of people living with HIV is reported to be 9600. 4721 AIDS patients have been recorded since 1989 to 2016. 799 of them could not escape the death of this deadly disease.

According to UNAIDS official in Bangladesh, the sad part is that only 40 in 100 AIDS patients are aware of their infection whereas one-fifth of them undergo treatment facility. In 2016, 578 new people have been reported to be infected with the deadly virus.

The number of deceased individuals was approximately 150. Among the reported HIV infected individuals, 24 of them were below nine years and 18 of them were between ten to eighteen years. These children and teenagers demand special attention as they are in their early stage of life with stronger ability to fight the disease.

The existing awareness campaigns all over the world and ARTs are being successful in controlling the damage caused by this disease. But in the end, the wise saying comes to the mind again, ‘Prevention is better than cure’’!

Faisal Monzur Morshed

Faisal Monzur Morshed is a former Research Assistant at Karolinska Institutet. He studied Cell and Molecular Biology at Uppsala University, Sweden. Now he is pursuing his Ph.D. at the University of Queensland in Australia.
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