The World Health Organisation (WHO) and the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS) report that more than 35 million people live with HIV and AIDS worldwide, around half of which are women.
In Afghanistan 5,000 individuals are estimated to be living with this condition, only 30 per cent registered with the National AIDS Control Programme.
Afghanistan’s Deputy Minister for Health Services, Dr Najia Tariq, cited prolonged conflict, drug addiction, poverty, illiteracy and migration as the major factors contributing to HIV/AIDS infection in the country.
She said her ministry is fully aware of the situation and has taken necessary measures to curtail the spread of the virus.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. The virus attacks body’s immune system, and weakens patient’s ability to fight infections.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is the final stage of HIV infection, when the body can no longer fight life-threatening infections or diseases.
How is HIV spread?
HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. According to Dr Mohammad Nawab Kamal, professor at the Kabul Medical University, HIV can be passed on to a healthy person in different ways. Most commonly, HIV is transmitted through sex with an infected partner. Additionally, sharing infected needles or razor blades and blood transfusions with HIV-positive individuals are also causes. An HIV-positive pregnant woman also risks transmitting the infection to her child during pregnancy, birth, and breastfeeding. However, HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine.
There is no cure for HIV, but there are treatments to enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life.
It is possible to be infected with HIV without developing AIDS. However, without treatment, the HIV infection can progress and eventually develop into AIDS in the vast majority of cases.
AIDS patients still have the HIV virus and are still infectious, which means someone with AIDS can pass HIV to other people.
The only way to find out if someone has HIV is to have an HIV test. The test can identify infection in the early stages. This allows the patient to use preventive drugs which will slow the rate at which the virus replicates, delaying the onset of AIDS. Therefore, the earlier HIV is detected, the more likely it is that treatment will be successful.
Medication, known as antiretroviral, works by slowing down the damage the virus does to the immune system. These medicines come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day.
To tackle the menace of HIV/AIDS in Afghanistan the government has started the National AIDS Control Programme.
According to the Ministry of Public Health, HIV/AIDs prevention and care services have improved in Afghanistan. There are Voluntary Counseling and Testing Center in 11 provinces – Kabul, Herat, Nangarhar, Balkh, Badakhshan, Kandahar, Ghazni, Kunar, Daikundi, Parwan and Kunduz. Also, two Anti-Retroviral Therapy (ART) centres have been established in Kabul and Herat.