The HIV/AIDS pandemic in South Africa seems set to continue with government’s education campaigns making little difference to the spread of HIV. The high infection rate, notably among adults in the 20 to 45 year age gap, means that this disease is now affecting South Africa’s economy as workers take more sick days or return to the homestead after battling HIV for years. While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are numerous suitable therapeutic options to reduce the severity of symptoms, delay the onset of opportunistic infections and prolong the lifespan of the HIV/AIDS sufferer.
HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) which enters the body through semen, breast milk or blood. Once inside the body, the virus attacks the body’s immune cells, which are responsible for the body’s defenses. The virus replicates within the immune cell, destroying the cell and emerging in larger numbers. HIV infection continues for years until the body’s defenses are overwhelmed and unable to cope. Opportunistic infections like tuberculosis, pneumonia, even the common cold and flu can the cause death without proper medical attention.
Regular HIV testing is recommended for all sexually active adults, even if in a committed relationship or using suitable protection during intercourse like condoms. Adults should check their HIV status at least twice a year to identify the infection in the early stages where the disease can be monitored. Attempting to diagnose your HIV status based on the status of your partner or just on certain signs and symptoms of HIV is not accurate and an irresponsible approach to dealing with this disease.
The HIV/AIDS issue will be a part of every South African’s life in years to come as we deal with the loss of friends, colleagues and family members. With one of the highest infection rates in the world, South Africans have to realize that the key to dealing with HIV/AIDS, whether in the prevention or treatment, is personal responsibility. Many myths abound with regards to HIV/AIDS and ‘miraculous cures‘ make the rounds among communities but it is essential to seek advice from a medical professional to reduce your chance of becoming infected and increasing your lifespan once infected.