Mumbai, Dec 1: Around 3 million people in India are currently living with HIV and are carriers of HIV without even being aware of their status, experts say.
In an attempt to dispel myths and provide a clear picture to the people on the occasion of World AIDS Day today, Metropolis Health Services, Director Operations, Dr Nilesh Shah told to the sources, ''Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) causes AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome).
''HIV weakens the body's immune system, which helps the body fight infections and diseases. In the early stages of infection, the person has no symptoms. However, as the infection progresses, the immune system becomes weaker, and the person becomes more susceptible to contracting other diseases and infections,''he added.
Dr Shah said the most advanced stage of HIV infection was AIDS. It could take 10-15 years for an HIV infected person to develop the disease.
There are two types of HIV that have been identified: HIV-1 and HIV-2, which is relatively uncommon. It is less easily transmitted as compared to HIV-1. People infected with HIV-2 are less infectious in the early stages of the virus. However, the infectiousness increases as the virus progresses.
Symptoms may include swollen lymph nodes, fever, chills, night sweats, diarrhea, weight loss, coughing and breathing problem, persistent tiredness, skin sores, blurred vision, headaches and development of other infections, such as certain kinds of pneumonia.
Dr Shah dispelled myths associated with HIV transmission such as, one can get HIV by working with, or being around someone who has the virus and sharing a meal with an infected person.
There are different kinds of HIV tests, including early detection tests and other confirmatory diagnostic. The Western Blot Test is the most commonly used confirmatory test for HIV antibody detection. Some other important HIV tests are--Viral load testing -- CD4/CD8.
Dr Shah said people should practice prevention and precautions.
''Do not have sexual contact with opposite or same-sex partners, unless you are sure they are free of HIV infection. Have safe and protected sex only and have sex with a single partner. Never share syringes and needles with others. Ask for a new, clean and disposable syringe each time you donate blood or undergo blood transfusion,'' he added.
''Insist upon a fresh blade in a barber shop, ensure proper screening before donating or receiving blood and organ transplantation. If a woman is infected with HIV, medical care and certain drugs, given during pregnancy, can lower the possibility of passing on HIV to her baby, '' Dr Shah informed.
According to a release issued here, the Health Communication Partnership at Johns Hopkins University Bloomberg School of Public Health, Center for Communication Progams (HCP/JHU) has come together for the third consecutive year with the 'Dabbawalas' of the city to increase awareness about HIV/AIDS and encourage people to access counselling and testing services, to mark the World AIDS Day (WAD).
Yesterday, on the eve of WAD, 5,000 'Dabbawalas', delivering lunch to 'Mumbaikars', were busy delivering a message kit on HIV/AIDS awareness, counselling and testing to about 1,00,000 customers.
The city witnessed 'Dabbawalas' in a special T-Shirt sporting the Integrated Counselling and Testing Centre (ICTC) campaign logo and slogan, while delivering 'Dabbas' to various customers at their offices.
Government hospitals, such as KEM, J J , Sion Hopital and Nair Hospital, have the ICTCs that provide free and confidential HIV counselling, testing and referral services, the release said.