Despite various efforts from the government and civic groups to raise awareness on sexually transmitted diseases or STDs, many people still fall victim to these diseases. One of the most dreaded of these STDs is the acquired immunodeficiency syndrome or AIDS, which is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus or HIV. Spread mostly through direct sexual contact, HIV-AIDS is a pandemic that continues to spread to this day. According to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS), there are an estimated 35.3 million people living with HIV across the globe. Of this figure, 3.3 million are children who have been infected by their HIV-positive mothers.
As indicated earlier, this disease is spread by and large through direct sexual contact with an infected person. A huge misconception is that HIV-AIDS is a disease spread mostly by gay men. Because of this, gay men have been routinely subjected to discrimination on top of the usual resentment they usually get for being gay.
However, most of the sexual transmissions of the disease happen through sexual contact between a man and a woman. Other ways by which the virus is spread are through exposure to infected body fluids, such as being transfused with infected blood or being injected with an infected needle, and mother to child infection.
On its early stages, HIV/AIDS is often marked by influenza-like symptoms. As it advances, it affects the body’s immune system. As the body’s defense system weakens, it becomes more vulnerable to infections and diseases that eventually cause irreversible deterioration.
The HIV virus does not discriminate, so engaging in healthy sexual practices is still the best way to avoid contracting it. The use of polyurethane or latex condoms should be a prerequisite when having sex, even during oral sex, most especially when doing it with strangers.
Water-based lubricants are also a much better option than the usual petroleum-based lubricants (oils, cold cream, petroleum jelly, lotion) because the latter tend to weaken latex condoms and make them prone to breakage. Other preventive measures include thorough checking of the quality of blood donations and non-sharing of needles.
There is as yet no definite cure for HIV-AIDS, but there are adequate measures in place to effectively manage it. One of these is the high active antiretroviral therapy or HAART, which is currently being taken by 6.6 million people across the globe. This method slows down the progress of the disease and prevents the occurrence of opportunistic infections. To help curb the negative effects of the disease, the World Health Organization also recommends intake of micronutrients, such as iron, Vitamin A, and zinc, at RDA levels.