World AIDS Day: Preventing HIV and AIDS in young people

Salome Phelamei

HIV/AIDS remains a major global issue, having claimed more than 36 million lives so far since the discovery of the virus more than 20 years ago.

The thought of contracting HIV is frightening due to several good reasons- the disease is currently incurable, it spreads quickly and there is no vaccine to protect against it.

According to the World Health Organisation, there were approximately 35.3 [32.2–38.8] million people living with HIV in 2012. This approximate also includes 2.1 million adolescents between the ages of 10 and 19 who are living with HIV. Sub-Saharan Africa is the most affected region with nearly 1 in every 20 adults living with HIV.

According to the current NACO data, India has achieved an overall reduction of 57 percent in estimated annual new HIV infections (among adult population) from 0.274 million in 2000 to 0.116 million in 2011.

While India has 2.4 million HIV-positive people, it’s estimated that out of these, 61% are male, 39% are female and 3.5% children.

Since the inception of World AIDS Day in 1988, it has been observed on December 1 every year with different themes. The theme for this year is “Getting to Zero”- means zero new infections, zero discrimination and zero AIDS-related deaths.

The theme will be repeated until 2015, focusing on “Zero AIDS Related Deaths” as well as pushing towards better access to treatment for all. The theme also urges governments around the world to fight the lethal disease by keeping the commitments they have made.

What is HIV/AIDS?

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is the name of the virus that causes acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). The virus interferes with the immune system and leaves the body vulnerable to a variety of life-threatening infections and cancers.

Body fluids responsible for HIV transmission:

HIV has been found in saliva, tears, nervous system tissue, spinal fluid, blood, semen, vaginal fluid and breast milk. Blood, semen, vaginal secretions, and breast milk generally transmit infection to others.

Signs and symptoms of HIV/AIDS may include:

Swollen lymph nodes

Weight loss

Fevers that come and go

Muscle soreness



Night sweats


Mouth or genital ulcers

Finally, the virus can contaminate all of the body’s organs, including the brain, thus affecting the person’s memory power.

How can it be prevented?

Even as the disease has no known cure until now, here are some easy and practicable tips to help you prevent from getting HIV infection:

1. Young people should by all means stay clear away from all sexual activities to avoid getting exposed to HIV.

2. It is best to keep your sexuality till you are older and married. Doing so will gain you trust and respect from family and friends as well. It will also help you in dealing with sex-related problems in future.

3. Do not use illegal intravenous drugs.

4. Avoid sharing needles or syringes.

5. Avoid contact with another person’s blood.

6. Practice safe-sex - such as using latex condoms since they are highly effective in preventing HIV transmission.

7. Do not have sex with multiple partners.

8. Get medical help if you think you have been exposed to other STDs, such as gonorrhea, syphilis, or chlamydia. Infection with these diseases can increase your risk of contracting HIV.

9. If you are infected, let your partner know your status before intercourse so that he/she can take preventive steps to avoid infection.

10. Women who are at increased risk should get themselves tested if they become pregnant because HIV infection can be transmitted from mother to child. Certain medications may reduce the risk of transmission and may help prevent the unborn baby from getting infected.

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