AIDS

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AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome, a disease that impairs a person's ability to fight infections, leaving them vulnerable to infections and certain types of cancer. A group of scientists discovered the virus that causes AIDS in 1983, and since then, AIDS has become a global health issue. According to statistics, 36.7 billion people were living with AIDS at the end of 2015, with 1.8 million children under 15 being among them. Only about 60% of infected individuals are aware of their infection status, and the remaining 40% are unable to access AIDS testing sites. Only about 60% of infected individuals are aware of their infection status, and the remaining 40% are unable to access AIDS testing sites. Out of the 36.7 million people living with AIDS, 25.6 million are located in the middle of low-income nations, especially Sub-Saharan Africa. The estimated number of deaths as a result of AIDS in 2015 was 1.1 million deaths, and despite the increased knowledge on the disease, the number should be lower.

This report is organized into three sections. The first section introduces the cause, the symptoms, the treatment methods available, and the prognosis of AIDS.

Physical Terms due to AIDS

Causes

AIDS is caused by HIV ( Human Immunodeficiency Virus) which attacks the white blood cells, primarily the CD4 cells, also known as the helper cells whose primary function is to elicit an immune response in case of an infection (Pinsky & Douglas, 2009). The HIV attaches itself to these cells, transfers its genetic content altering the host’s cells to replicate the HIV. The CD4 cells die in the process meaning that the body is left defenseless and vulnerable to infections. The HIV is transmitted into the body by three main ways: contact with infected blood, semen, or vaginal secretions, injection of infected blood, and from mother to child by breast milk or infected mother to fetus (Pinky & Douglas, 2009). Pinsky & Douglas (2009) point out that after HIV kills the CD4 cells, the body’s immune system is weakened and the individually suffers from many infections and cancers, ultimately the person gets ill. AIDS is the late stage of the HIV infection where the immune system gets completely damaged leading to the weakening the body’s ability to fight diseases and cancers.

Symptoms

The main symptoms of AIDS are the quick loss of weight, pneumonia, persistent diarrhea, sores and wounds in various body parts such as the mouth and the genitals, and extreme body exhaustion. Individuals with AIDS also have continued swelling in their lymph glands located in the armpits or the neck, neurological issues such as the loss of memory, and the development of depression ("Symptoms of HIV," 2017). Other common symptoms are sore throats, extreme headaches, unexplained fevers, and body rash and itching.

Treatment

No cure for AIDS has been developed yet, but the available medication aims to minimize the HIV and strengthen the immune system reducing the various complications brought by the disease ("AIDS Treatment: UCSF Medical Center," 2017). McDaniel et al. (2010) point out that the treatment of AIDS is carried out by combining various antiretroviral agents from six classes. These six categories are non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors, protease inhibitors, fusion inhibitors, integrase strand transfer inhibitors, and entry inhibitors. It is important to point out that the role of HIV medication is to facilitate the decline of the HIV viral content to low levels and maintain the immune system of the body at the point where it can fight off infections and diseases.

Prognosis

There is no cure for AIDS developed yet, and without treatment, the likely outcome is death. However, the onset of this illness can be delayed because it takes an average of ten to fifteen years for an HIV infection to fully materialize into AIDS. Early detection of the disease and the start of highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART) (Mandal, 2012) at the early stage will enable a patient to live for many more years. The prognosis of AIDS patients is affected by various factors such as CD4 cell count, viral load, the use of injectable drugs, and an infection by either hepatitis B or C. the development of better treatment and increased availability of medication is improving the prognosis of AIDS, and the number of deaths has been reducing.

The first part of the report identifies HIV as the cause of AIDS. A major point to note is that AIDS is the late stage of an HIV infection and therefore, the symptoms identified may take a longer time to show. No cure for AIDS has been developed yet, but the available medication strengthens the immune system of the body enhancing the body’s ability to fight diseases. The second section discusses the emotional effects of AIDS on the quality of life they live as well as how others perceive people living with AIDS.

Mental/Emotional Terms due to AIDS

Experiences and Stressors of AIDS Patients

Individuals living with AIDS go through highly stressful life situations, and they face painful experiences which may adversely affect their coping strategies (Rodkjaer, Sodemann, Ostergaard, & Lomborg, 2011). Many of these patients go through emotional and psychological stress as a result of poor health, uncertainty about the progress of the diseases, extreme pain, the necessity of continuously monitoring the viral load and CD4 cell count, side effects of the treatment among others. These individuals go through painful daily experiences such as being discriminated, being shunned by their families and friends, and the society still stigmatizes them. Most of these individuals are dependent on their friends and families and they face rejection and discrimination, resulting in them developing depression and anxiety.

How AIDS Impacts Daily Life and the Quality of Life

Basavaraj, Navya, & Rashmi (2010) point out that individuals living with AIDS face difficulties in performing the daily tasks of life, engaging in various vigorous physical activities, and they lack the energy to commit to active social interactions fully. Most of them have to stop working, and they become dependent on others for their daily activities. The quality of life of these people living with AIDS is also reduced because most of them cope with the disease by isolating themselves and decreasing the extent of social interaction. They face many problems such as stigmatization, depression, increased poverty, and mental problems, the lack of support from the society, and all these factors reduce the quality of life that they live (Basavaraj et al. 2010).

Shared Experiences of AIDS Patients

Setlhare, Wright, & Couper (2014) point out that most AIDS patients go through psychological and emotional problems because most of them feel like they are in an entirely different world. Most of them get scared and develop feelings of blame, shame, and guilt for contracting the illness. Setlhareet al. (2014), further points out that they develop depression, they start despising themselves, and the result is that they start isolating themselves away from people. A collective experience of individuals living with AIDS face is broken relationships where friends, spouses, coworkers abandon the patient, and this intensifies the pain they go through.

Dealing with Stigma

Stigmatization of people living with AIDS has been identified as a factor that impedes the fight against the illness. Most AIDS patients do not get open with their status because they fear the rejection and the negative opinion most societies have towards AIDS. AIDS patients can deal with stigma by contacting a trusted friend or joining an AIDS support group where one can share the hurtful feelings and experiences (Restall & Gonzalez, 2014). Support groups consist of individuals who have gone through similar experiences, and this makes disclosure easier as well as educating their members about their rights, for instance, to stand up against discrimination. Persons living with AIDS can also deal with stigma by attending counseling sessions where they can disclose their challenges, get the education on how to cope with the disease, and get encouragement.

People living with AIDS go through painful emotional situations such as discrimination and rejection by family and friends. Stigmatization has been identified as a major challenge globally that impedes the fight against AIDS. Guilt, worthlessness, worry and fear are universal emotions that these people live with on a daily basis and therefore, it is important that they get social support from the loved ones. The third section discusses the social effects of the illness such as the how it impacts communication with loved ones, health care providers, and in the workplace.

Social Terms due to AIDS

Impact on Communication with Loved Ones

People living with AIDS find it may find it difficult to disclose their status to their families because they fear rejection and the possibility of being isolated. The loved ones may associate the illness with sexual promiscuity or drug use resulting in feelings of guilt and blame, leading to broken relationships ("Families Living with HIV," 2017). For instance, in a family setting, parents who have AIDS are less willing to inform their children about their status and the children are afraid to tell their parents and friends about their condition. Disclosure of AIDS to loved ones causes stress, helplessness, and sadness. Attending to the demands of patients is exhausting, and emotionally draining, and causes financial strain on the relatives. All these are factors that can fuel tension among the loved ones resulting in conflict and disagreements over the use of resources, leading to a breakdown in communication.

Impact on Communication with Health Providers

Storey et al.  (2014) asserts that effective communication between the AIDS patient and a health care provider is essential for effective treatment. Rosen (2014) records that most physicians passively stigmatize people living with AIDS by displaying a body language that indicates anger, anxiety, or fear. Most patients claim that the treatment they receive is cold where the medical practitioner distances himself away, being treated unfairly, and using a voice tone that shows exasperation. Some patients have also reported that same physicians have verbally abused them, refused to talk to them, even to the extent of refusing to serve them all together. This shows that to some degree, living with AIDS negatively affects the communication with health care providers and this adversely affects the treatment process. Rosen (2014) further points out those individuals who have had an uncomfortable experience with a practitioner where the communication was poor are hesitant to seek further medical intervention. Storey et al. (2014) emphasize that good communication between the healthcare provider and patient will enhance access to quality treatment and encourage individuals to practice healthier behaviors.

Does AIDS impact work?

AIDS has an adverse effect on work because it lowers productivity since employees are at home looking after their ill family members. A business also incurs higher turnover costs because the skilled employees have to quit working after contracting AIDS. Setlhare et al. (2014) further point out that people living with AIDS still face discrimination and are stigmatized at work to the extent of being fired. The continued discrimination of people living with AIDS is against the fundamental rights of a human being, and it impedes the efforts towards effective AIDS treatment and prevention.

As seen, AIDS may lead to a breakdown in communication with the patient’s loved ones because family resources are all dedicated to buying medication. There have been cases of health provider’s verbally abusing patients as well as refusing to serve them. Healthcacre providers hostility as a major problem and there is the acknowledgment that these people must receive warm and excellent service from the physicians to encourage them to follow through with their treatment.

Conclusion

AIDS not only negatively affects the health of the individual but it also affects households, the society, and the economy at large. A major point to note is that AIDS does not have a cure, but the available treatments strengthen the immune system of individuals enabling the body to fight opportunistic diseases. Despite the growth in the knowledge, prevention, and treatment of AIDS, greater effort must be put to ensure the victims in the developing world have access to prevention measures, care, and treatment. Also, the masses still have to be educated on the illness in efforts to reduce the stigma and discrimination towards people living with AIDS, which is still a major impediment to the global fight against AIDS. With continued education of the affected individuals and improved access to prevention and treatment, AIDS prevalence rates will substantially decline, and the number of deaths will be reduced.

References

AIDS Treatment | Conditions & Treatments | UCSF Medical Center. (2017). Ucsfhealth.org. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from https://www.ucsfhealth.org/conditions/aids/treatment.html

Mandal, A. (2012). AIDS Prognosis. News-Medical.net. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from http://www.news-medical.net/health/AIDS-Prognosis.aspx

McDaniel, S., Brown, L., Cournos, F., Forstein, M., Goodkin, K., & Lyketsos, C. (2009). Treatment of Patients With HIV/AIDS (pp. 3-50). AMERICAN PSYCHIATRIC ASSOCIATIO.

Restall, G. & Gonzalez, M. (2014). Strategies for Addressing HIV/AIDS Related Stigma. School of Manitoba.

Rodkjaer, L., Sodemann, M., Ostergaard, L., & Lomborg, K. (2011). Disclosure Decisions: HIV-Positive Persons Coping With Disease-Related Stressors. Qualitative Health Research, 21(9), 1249-1259. http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1049732311405803

Rosen, D. (2014). How Bias and Stigma Undermine Healthcare. Holisticprimarycare.net. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from https://holisticprimarycare.net/topics/topics-o-z/reflections/1653-how-bias-and-stigma-undermine-healthcare.html

Setlhare, V., Wright, A., & Couper, I. (2014). The experiences of people living with HIV/AIDS in Gaborone, Botswana: stigma, its consequences and coping mechanisms. South African Family Practice, 56(6), 309-313. http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/20786190.2014.975484

Storey, D., Seifert-Ahanda, K., Andaluz, A., Tsoi, B., Matsuki, J., & Cutler, B. (2014). What Is Health Communication and How Does It Affect the HIV/AIDS Continuum of Care? A Brief Primer and Case Study From New York City. JAIDS Journal Of Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndromes, 66, S241-S249. http://dx.doi.org/10.1097/qai.0000000000000243

Pinsky, L., & Douglas, P. H. (2003). The Columbia University handbook on HIV and AIDS. Columbia University.

Families Living with HIV. (2017). Aamft.org. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from https://www.aamft.org/iMIS15/AAMFT/Content/Consumer_Updates/Families_Living_with_HIV.aspx

Symptoms of HIV. (2017). Aids.gov. Retrieved 27 January 2017, from https://www.aids.gov/hiv-aids-basics/hiv-aids-101/signs-and-symptoms/index.html

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