Editor in Chief: Moh. Reza Huwaida Wednesday, December 13th, 2017

Dramatic Increase in HIV/Aids

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Dramatic Increase in HIV/Aids

Afghanistan is in the early stage of dramatic increase of HIV/AIDs while the main route of transmission are reported needle sharing; Officials in the ministry of public health of Afghanistan informed of impressive increase in HIV/AIDS positive cases in the country. Deputy public health minister Najia Tariq said on Sunday that the HIV/AIDS cases have increased by 38 percent as compared to last year. She said at least 162 HIV/AIDS positive cases have been recorded across the country during the current year, but around 117 HIV positive cases were recorded last year. The World Health Organization (WHO) estimates around 5,000 people are affected with HIV/AIDS virus across the country, and only 30 percent of HIV positive cases have been recorded so far whereas, historically, the first HIV positive case was recorded in earlier in 1989.
In addition to damage of immune system, the HIV victims are additionally damaged by mental trauma in traditional societies such as Afghanistan. They may face with humiliating behavior or easily isolated by their family and friends, or by their community. On the other hand, they face with poor treatment in healthcare and educational settings. It all starts with a sense of disbelief when tested positive and then the patient loses all hope, leading to panic and fear. Many people living with HIV are at an increased risk of developing mood swings, cognitive or anxiety disorders. These can severely affect the nervous system.
In global level, the HIV/AIDS is not over but it can be if we tailor the response to individual needs at particular times in life. According to reports, there are about 78 million people who have become infected with HIV and 35 million have died from AIDS-related illnesses since the first cases. The number of new HIV infections has not declined specially among adults and young women. The latest data by the WHO shows that there are 37 million people living with the disease and only 18.2 million people are receiving antiretroviral treatment worldwide.
Hence, there is serious need to raising awareness in order to prevent the spread and pave the way for access to antiretroviral medicines. A life-cycle approach to HIV that finds solutions for everyone at every stage of life can address the complexities of HIV. Risks and challenges change as people go through life, highlighting the need to adapt HIV prevention and treatment strategies from birth to old age. Specially, those with positive results should immediately seek help and confirm reports from health clinics. They also require receiving information and links to counseling as well as rapid referral to prevention, treatment and care services.
Luckily, The World Health Organization (WHO) issued new guidelines on HIV self-testing to help with the diagnosis of the deadly disease. The initiative by the UN health organization aims to help millions know about their HIV status and get the right treatment. With the easy and pertinent self-testing kit, people around the world can know about their status within “20 minutes”. The WHO report says, “HIV self-testing means people can use oral fluid or blood- finger-pricks to discover their status in a private and convenient setting.” the self-testing should open the door for many more people to know about their HIV status and eventually lead the patients to find out how to get treatment and access prevention services.
In addition, some scientists are informing about vaccines and new methods of cure. A large-scale trial of a potential vaccine is underway in South Africa. The study will involve more than 5,400 sexually active men and women ages 18 to 35 in a number of areas around South Africa, a country where more than 1,000 people a day are infected with HIV. The trial will last for four years.
According to the latest WHO progress report, “lack of an HIV diagnosis is a major obstacle to implementing the expert advices that everyone with HIV should be offered antiretroviral therapy (ART).” 
As Millions of people with HIV are still missing out on life-saving treatment, which can also prevent HIV transmission to others. The report shows that 40 per cent of all people affected with the HIV-virus (over 14 million) remain unaware of their status. “Many of these are people at higher risk of HIV infection who often find it difficult to access existing testing services. Self-testing is a best way to reach more people with undiagnosed HIV and represents a step forward to empower individuals, diagnose people earlier before they become sick, bring services closer to where people live, and create demand for HIV testing. This is particularly important for those people facing barriers to accessing existing services.
Even so 23 countries have national policies that support HIV self-testing. Many others are developing policies, but wide-scale implementation of HIV self-testing remains limited.  The alarming report also suggested that 70 per cent people whose partners are affected by the virus, they also test positive to the test but many of those do not get tested to ascertain their status. Finally, there are several factors and route in Afghanistan contributing to the risk of a HIV epidemic, including economic, social, demographic, unwariness, syringe sharing, unscreened emigrants or visitors and behavioural determinants that, if not addressed effectively, may fuel the spread of HIV. In fact, there is need to national strategy for prevention and fight against issue focusing on certain effected groups such as IDUs, prisoners, foreign sex workers, emigrants and visitors.

Mohammad Zahir Akbari is the newly emerging writer of the Daily Outlook Afghanistan. He can be reached at mohammadzahirakbari@gmail.com

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