In sub-Saharan Africa, many children have become orphans because their parents have died of Aids. Photo: humedica/Jens Grossmann
Background knowledge: disease patterns
They are expressions everybody knows: HIV and Aids are constant topics of the worldwide information and educational training. The media as well as the public educational institutions untiringly insist on warning of the dangers of getting infected. Quite often, words like “incurable” or “chronical” are being used in this context.
But even if the name of the disease is known by the people, surveys have repeatedly shown surprising results: Only few people know about the difference between an HIV infection and the development of full-blown AIDS.
Within the frame of our background series about frequently occurring disease pattern, we want to explain this difference to you and focus on further facts concerning HIV and Aids.
HIV and Aids
At first, the most important information: HIV and Aids name two different states of illness. HIV stands for the pathogen human immunodeficiency virus which is transmitted by contaminated blood or body fluids.
After some years, an HIV infection can pass into the immune deficiency disease Aids, which is Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome. De facto, it is impossible to get infected with Aids.
Whereas, in general, the HI Virus does not cause any pains, after the outbreak of Aids the ill people suffer from symptoms like massive loss of weight, pneumonia or permanent diarrhea; all these diseases are caused by a much weakened immune defense.
For a successful therapy, the early diagnosis of an HIV infection is of great importance. With a simple blood test, the doctors can determine antibodies against the virus as well as the viral load. And even if HIV and Aids are still considered to be incurable, there is the possibility of delaying the outbreak of Aids for years or sometimes to impede it completely, thanks to a directed treatment.
The intake of antiretroviral drugs substantially increases the expectancy of life of HIV infected persons; moreover it reduces the risk of transmission on other people.
A chance which is, at first place, available to concerned people in first-world countries. In African countries south of the Sahara, where according to UNAIDS 25 of the worldwide 35 million HIV-positive people live, the ill persons can only seldom pay for a therapy.
The consequence is an alarmingly high death rate in this region: About 1.2 million people lost their fight against Aids in the year 2012 alone. They leave behind orphans, who have often been born with the HI-Virus themselves and who face an uncertain future.
But meanwhile, also in Africa, there are gleams of hope in the fight against Aids. For example, the number of cases of death due to Aids in many countries in East and South Africa has fallen by 40 percent during the last eight years. The number of new infections has diminished by 30 percent. The record has been reached in Ethiopia, where about 90 percent fewer new HIV infections were detected in 2011 than in the year 2001.
In the context of their long-term help projects, humedica also contributes to the fight against HIV and Aids. With preventive trainings, the supply of contraceptives, HIV tests as well as counselling talks for concerned persons, this commitment has proved to be effective in countries like Zimbabwe, Niger or Uganda.
And also in the model country Ethiopia, the humedica family sponsorship program supports people who are concerned by an HIV infection directly or indirectly.