The first of December 2014 marked World AIDS day.  AIDS is a serious issue because it remains the leading cause of death among the world population and the numbers of cases keep increasing despite a multitude of campaigns and preventions being held.  Therefore let’s take a moment to educate ourselves on these 8 things you should know regarding AIDS.

  1.  HIV or AIDS?

Even if it’s a wide known fact, some people are still confused on the terms.  Here is the definition, broken down word by word – for better and simple understanding.

  • H– Human – This particular virus can only infect human beings.
  • I– Immunodeficiency – HIV weakens your immune system by destroying important cells that fight diseases and infections. A “deficient” immune system can’t protect you.
  • V– Virus – A virus can only reproduce itself by taking over a cell in the body of its host.


  • A– Acquired – AIDS is not something you inherit from your parents. You acquire AIDS after birth.
  • I– Immuno – Your body’s immune system includes all the organs and cells that work to fight off infection or disease.
  • D– Deficiency – You get AIDS when your immune system is “deficient,” or isn’t working the way it should.
  • S– Syndrome – A syndrome is a collection of symptoms and signs of disease. AIDS is a syndrome, rather than a single disease, because it is a complex illness with a wide range of symptoms and signs.

An individual may get infected by HIV, but not all will regress to AIDS – which is the late stage of infection.  Furthermore, people die from the complications, not AIDS itself.

  1. Deadly Invaders

Let’s make it a story.  Once upon a time, there was a virus family of the name Retrovirus.  They had 2 Genus that affect human, named Lentivirus and Deltaretrovirus.  Lentivirus breeds the HIV species.  HIV is so small that no one took notice of it.  All the big boys, Hepatitis Brothers, Influenza Gang, look down upon them, boasting how far they can debilitate human.

One day, they decided to stop the oblivion.  They gather round to think up of a strategy – to bring down humans and other viruses.  They observe the way human body works, and ponder and the problems viruses are facing which is the increasing rate of immunization.  So they decided to attack the very core of human health being – the soldiers of immune system, White Blood Cells.

There is this particular General in Command, called CD-4 T Helper Cell, who plays a vital role in recognizing terrorist and setting soldiers up against them.  That’s who HIV targeted.  It also helps the fact that they are so small, and with so many advanced weapon to invade the homely cells.

They DNA-washed the cells, making them obey their command and replicate more HIV soldiers.  Their elusive way of hiding behind the cell DNA made them well hidden from the alarm of the Patrol Officers Macrophage.  Sometimes they abuse the cell so much that they are destroyed.  If that’s not bad enough, they made Chief CD-8 Cytotoxic turn against infected CD-4 Helper and kill them.  Once the defense system crumbles, HIV just sit back and watch the event turns – weakened human is a perfect place to throw a celebratory party, and HIV invite not only other viruses, but also bacteria and fungi – to waggle success in their faces and show who’s boss.

  1. Myth Buster

Myth: I can get HIV by being around people who are HIV-positive.

The evidence shows that HIV is not spread through touch, tears, sweat, or saliva. You cannot catch HIV by:

  • Breathing the same air as someone who is HIV-positive
  • Touching a toilet seat or doorknob handle after an HIV-positive person
  • Drinking from a water fountain
  • Hugging, kissing, or shaking hands with someone who is HIV-positive
  • Sharing eating utensils with an HIV-positive person
  • Using exercise equipment at a gym

You can get it from infected blood, semen, vaginal fluid, or mother’s milk.  Behaviors that put you in contact with these fluid include having vaginal or anal sex without a condom or without being on medicines that prevent or treat HIV, or by sharing injection drug equipment with someone who has HIV.

Myth: I can get HIV from mosquitoes.

Because HIV is spread through blood, people have worried that biting or bloodsucking insects might spread HIV. Several studies, however, show no evidence to support this — even in areas with lots of mosquitoes and cases of HIV. When insects bite, they do not inject the blood of the person or animal they have last bitten. Also, HIV lives for only a short time inside an insect.

  1. Victimized or Punishment?

Although the HIV risk factors are the same for everyone, some gender groups are far more affected than others. Gay, bisexual, and other men who have sex with men, for example, account for the majority of new HIV infections in the U.S. each year despite making up only 2% of the population.

Still, women are not off the hook.  It is found that half of the HIV/AIDS infected population, half are women due to biological vulnerability, social standing and power imbalance.

Other risk groups include drug addicts, health workers and infants.  It’s important to note that health care workers are liable to infections, too, by accidental needle prick or lab exposure, thus the need to stress upon safety work ethics and routine screening.  25 % of HIV-infected pregnant women who are not treated during pregnancy can transmit HIV to their infants during pregnancy, childbirth and breast-feeding.

  1. 04% May Not Seem Much, but…

Nowadays, statistics play important roles in controlling, predicting and monitoring a certain disease or condition.  It can reflect a lot of information vital to tackling the problem.  So if you ponder well the figures below, you’ll be surprised by the severity of this AIDS pandemic.

  •  According to the World Health Organization (WHO), there were approximately 35 million people worldwide living with HIV/AIDS in 2013. Of these, 3.2 million were children (<15 years old).
  • According to WHO an estimated 2.1 million individuals worldwide became newly infected with HIV in 2013.  This includes over 240,000 children (<15 years). Most of these children live in sub-Saharan Africa and were infected by their HIV-positive mothers during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding.
  • A UN AIDS report shows that 19 million of the 35 million people living with HIV today do not know that they have the virus.
  • The vast majority of people living with HIV are in low- and middle-income countries. According to WHO, sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region, with 24.7 million people living with HIV in 2013. Seventy-one percent of all people who are living with HIV in the world live in this region.
  • HIV is the world’s leading infectious killer. According to WHO, an estimated 39 million people have died since the first cases were reported in 1981 and 1.5 million people died of AIDS-related causes in 2013.

  1. When It Began

On June 5, 1981, the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) published a Morbidity and Mortality Weekly Report (MMWR), describing cases of a rare lung infection, Pneumocysitis carinii pneumonia (PCP), in five young, previously healthy, gay men in Los Angeles.  All the men have other unusual infections as well, indicating that their immune systems are not working; two have already died by the time the report was published.  This edition of the MMWR marks the first official reporting of what will become known as the AIDS epidemic.

By year end, there was a cumulative total of 270 reported cases of severe immune deficiency among gay men, 121 of those individuals died.

  1. The Negative Positive

It is hard enough to pluck up the courage to get tested for HIV, the result is another story. You can let out a sigh of relief if it came out negative, but what about those with a positive result?  The fear, overwhelming despair and hopelessness can turn one’s life upside down.  That’s not counting the perception of people around them, judging eyes they’ll receive instead of support and understanding they deserve.  One of the ways to fight HIV is to overcome the silence and stigma.  That way, more unnoticed cases can be detected and once diagnosed; they can sensibly consider the treatment option and change lifestyle, instead of succumbing to grieve and depression.

  1. Don’t Lose Hope

Even if the cure is yet to be discovered, there have been vast improvements in the treatment for the infection in the past 30 years.  Antiretroviral Therapy (ART) is the first line drug, which acts to suppress the viral replication, thereby preventing the destruction of the immune system, but eradication of the virus still remains impossible.  Based on this fact, we can crush certain myths saying after taking these drugs they are either free of HIV, can practice unsafe lifestyles and not transmit infection.

We also (sent) Lut: He said to his people: “Do ye commit lewdness such as no people in creation (ever) committed before you? For ye practise your lusts on men in preference to women : ye are indeed a people transgressing beyond bounds.”

And his people gave no answer but this: they said, “Drive them out of your city: these are indeed men who want to be clean and pure!”(Surat al-Araf: 80-82)

Within the Quran there has been mentions on prohibition against homosexuality and the punishment Allah sent down upon those who went out of bound and out of their nature, or Fitrah.  As the behavior emerge yet again, He sent a more subtle, but equally disastrous penance – HIV, a virus so intricately designed that even with the brightest mind and advanced technology combined, still unable to came up with a cure.  And how ungrateful are the human, that with the slight treatment discovered is a license to continue their unnatural behavior?  Therefore, ideally, the eradication of HIV/AIDS should be from all angles – treatment and support for the sick, and prevention from the very root of the problem.

Athifah binti Abdul Aziz is currently pursuing her fifth year in Kasr Al Ainy Medical School. An excellent achiever in her academic pursuit, she believes that the public should be educated on common global epidemic. This article is written in conjunction with World AIDS day 2014 with the theme of ‘Focus, Partner, Achieve: An AIDS-free Generation.’