More awareness and targeted campaigns needed to combat HIV/AIDS in India

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On World AIDS Day, it is imperative to check your HIV status and take precautionary action

New Delhi, 30 November 2018: About 36.9 million people in India live with HIV/AIDS according to data from the World Health Organization. This condition is a major health issue in the country. To raise awareness around the disease, December 1 is marked as the World AIDS Day and the theme this year is ‘Know your status’ which tells people to check their HIV status. A UNAIDS status report indicates that there is still a long way to go in terms of reaching out to people with HIV/AIDS.

HIV refers to the virus that causes the infection. It targets the person’s immune system and can weaken the defence systems, making a person vulnerable to infections and some forms of cancer. Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) refers to the most advanced stage of HIV infection. It causes an extremely low CD4 cell count. If untreated, HIV can destroy the immune system and lead to AIDS.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “HIV destroys and impairs the function of immune cells, gradually making infected individuals become immunodeficient. Although there has been a registered 20% annual decline in new infections over the past few years, more efforts are required to completely combat the disease by the year 2030. On World AIDS Day, there is a need to create awareness about the fact that everyone with AIDS must be accorded treatment at the right time to help them achieve good health. HIV/AIDS continues to affect the Indian population despite various mass awareness campaigns, availability of various state-of-the-art medical interventions, and evolving technology.”

HIV and AIDS are different terms. HIV or Human immunodeficiency virus attacks and destroys white blood cells or T Lymphocytes in the immune system making the body prone to all types of diseases. AIDS, on the other hand, is a condition, which develops in the advanced stages of HIV infection due to a weak immune system.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “HIV can spread from an infected woman to her child during pregnancy and childbirth. It can also be passed from a mother to her child through breastfeeding. All pregnant mothers should get HIV test done. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) should be started at the earliest to prevent HIV transmission to sexual or drug using partner/s or from the mother to the infant during pregnancy or breastfeeding.”

Some other facts about the condition

  • ABC for safe sex: Abstain, Be faithful to your partner and if you cannot, use Condoms.
  • Drinking alcohol or taking drugs interferes with judgment. Even those who understand the risks of AIDS and the importance of safer sex may become careless after drinking or using drugs.
  • People with STIs should seek prompt treatment and avoid sexual intercourse or practice safe sex.
  • Used infected razor blades, knives or tools that cut or pierce the skin also carry some risk of spreading HIV.
  • HIV-positive people may remain asymptomatic but can still pass on the virus to others

Hantavirus is a deadly infection and there is no cure or vaccine available

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Beware of rodents entering the house or other spaces and take adequate precautions

New Delhi, 29 November 2018: According to statistics, hantavirus pulmonary syndrome (HPS) has a mortality rate of about 40%. There are currently no treatments or vaccines available for this condition. First identified in 1993, hantaviruses cause severe and sometimes fatal respiratory infections and are known to infect lung cells. The first case of death reported in India due to this condition was that of a 12-year-old boy from Mumbai.

Hantavirus infection or HPS is a lung infection caused by viruses found in the saliva, urine, and droppings of rodents. The illness is rare but has a high morbidity and mortality rate. Rats are the commonest carrier of the virus as their urine or dung can be infected. The virus is also air-borne.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Hantavirus enter the human body through infected rodent bodily fluids. The virus can affect the heart, lungs and kidneys and reduces their function. It can also enter the bloodstream where it further continues to spread, replicate, and cause further organ damage. The body attempts to fight the virus by creating inflammation. All of this can lead to intense bodily damage. In the lungs, leaky blood vessels cause flooding in the air sacs, and therefore breathing difficulty. When the virus infects the heart, the damage reduces its ability to pump blood around the body. Failure of the heart to pump and leaky vessels with reduction in blood flow causes very low blood pressure (“shock”), and oxygen is not available to all the cells of the body. This can rapidly lead to failure of most or all the organs and eventually to death.”

The early symptoms of HPS include fatigue, fever and muscle aches, followed after a week or so by coughing and shortness of breath.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “There is no cure for HPS and only supportive treatment can be provided. This includes oxygen therapy, fluid replacement, and use of medications to support blood pressure. Given that those affected by HPS have the risk of rapid respiratory deterioration, patients suspected with this condition should immediately be transported to a hospital for intensive care monitoring.”

Some tips from HCFI

  • Close any holes or cracks in the house or work environment through which rodents may gain entry. It is important to note that they can come in even through a small opening.
  • Identify potential nesting sites, and clean up debris, clear bushes, and trap rodents to remove them.
  • Open and aerate any chronically closed rodent-infested spaces well before entering them.
  • Heavily infested areas should be brought to the attention of the relevant authorities prior to cleaning campaigns.
  • Ensure that you keep your surroundings clean and sanitized.

Childhood trauma can trigger post-traumatic stress disorder in adulthood

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Lifestyle changes can help avoid symptoms and alleviate stress

New Delhi, 28 November 2018: Researchers have found a link between trauma in childhood and psychotic experiences at the age of 18. The latter refers to any abnormal experiences such as hearing voices or feelings of paranoia. The study they conducted revealed that about 25% to 60% of the young people who reported psychotic experiences would not have developed these if they had not been exposed to trauma such as bullying, domestic violence or emotional neglect as a child.

About 5% of the population have psychotic experiences at some point in their life. These can lead to further mental health issues and this makes it important to understand the role of trauma in increasing this risk.

Speaking about this, Padma Shri Awardee, Dr KK Aggarwal, President, HCFI, said, “Post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) is a stress which lasts for up to 13 days if handled properly and for months or years if not handled after an acute stress. This can be a serious disorder. The reference to grieved mourning a death can be found in the Vedic literature. There is custom that the grieved partner is made to weep till she or he is overwhelmed with emotions. In fact, all relatives and friends participate in the exercise, depending upon their respective closeness to the deceased. In some sections of the society there is also a custom of shaving the head or doing ‘daan’ of hairs and or wearing white clothes. An explanation for this is that a grieved person may go into depression which if not treated properly may last for months together, or even forever. For example, the acute stress after the death of somebody very close will be called acute traumatic stress and the condition PTSD.”

Some symptoms of PTSD include intrusive memories, avoidance, negative changes in thinking and mood, and changes in physical and emotional reactions. However, these can vary over time or from person to person.

Adding further, Dr Aggarwal, who is also the Group Editor-in-Chief of IJCP, said, “The aim of life should be to continue living after one’s physical body has died and that is only possible by doing positive Karmas. If we did not get moksha or liberation in our last birth means that some sufferings still remained for us to bear and the very purpose of our present birth is to face those sufferings. We should face them with happiness and not with sorrow. By doing positive karmas, we can not only neutralize our karmas of the past birth but also the bad karmas from birth till date.”

Some tips from HCFI

Here are some ways one can cope with the symptoms of PTSD

  • Take time to relax and become free of stress. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, deep breathing, massage, or yoga can do this by activating the body’s relaxation response.
  • Avoid alcohol and drugs. Substance use can worsen many symptoms of PTSD, interfere with treatment, and add to other problems.
  • Eat a healthy diet. A balanced and nutritious meal including omega-3s and other essential components can work wonders. Limit the intake of processed and fried food, refined starches, and sugars.
  • Get enough sleep. Any sleep deprivation can trigger anger, irritability, and moodiness. Develop a relaxing bedtime ritual and make your bedroom as quiet, dark, and soothing as possible.

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