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Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS-) is –a life-changing yet incurable ailment caused by Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV). Affecting multiple organs, AIDS is the most advanced stage of HIV infection (stage 3). It is defined by the occurrence of any of more than 20 opportunistic infections or HIV-related cancers World Health Organisation (WHO). Presently, the only treatment for HIV patients involves antiretroviral therapy (ART) and lifestyle modification.
Human immunodeficiency viruses are members of the retrovirus family, originating from the simian immunodeficiency viruses (SIVs) of primates. HIV-1 in humans is derived from SIV of chimpanzees; HIV-2 in humans is derived from SIV of Sooty mangabey monkeys. Unlike other viral invasions, unfortunately, complete removal of HIV is impossible and once it has invaded, it remains in patients’ body forever. But with the availability of antiretroviral therapy, disease progression into AIDS can be significantly slowed down thus improving patient’s quality of life.
HIV attacks the immunity of the body and weakens its immune system with the passage of time. In particular, the virus attacks CD4 T-lymphocytes cells which help the body in fighting off infections. As a result of lowered immunity, opportunistic infections and HIV-related cancers can take up roots and make a person multi-dimensionally ill, signalling the progression into AIDS. The most common opportunistic infections encountered by HIV+ patients are TB, meningitis, gastrointestinal infections, influenza, skin infections and fungal infections. The disease is classified into three stages: (1) Acute HIV infection, (2) Clinical latency and (3) AIDS.
Acute HIV infection: generally develops within 2 – 4 weeks of encountering the virus and is characterised by flu-like symptoms. Patients suffer from fever, swollen glands, sore throat, rash, muscle and joint pains, and headache. This is known as the acute retroviral stage.
Clinical latency: during this period, the virus is reproducing in the body but is not causing any symptoms. Without ART, this stage may last for an average of 10 years in HIV+ patients.
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome: When the patient’s CD4 count falls below 200 cells per cubic millimetre of blood (200 cells/mm3), the disease is considered to have progressed to AIDS. This means that the immune system has become damaged beyond repair and the person is now highly vulnerable to opportunistic infections. The patient is also considered to have progressed if he/she develops an opportunistic infection regardless of their CD4 count. Life expectancy of AIDS patients is 1 year without treatment and 3 years with ART.
HIV virus can be transmitted via:
Unfortunately, the prevalence of AIDS is increasing in Asia and the Pacific at an amplified rate. According to the World Health Organisation, 1.2 million people were recorded to have HIV in the region in 2017. For this reason, both government and non-government organisations in the area are becoming increasingly focused on spreading awareness of HIV/AIDS. This primarily involves training of health workers.
Pacific Open Learning Health Net (POLHN) is working in collaboration with WHO to train health workers, specifically, nurses, to provide medical attention to those affected by HIV/AIDS.
In Pacific, nurses are often the first ones to encounter patients suffering from HIV/AIDS. So, POLHN has chosen to focus on these nurses to make sure they are trained to give up-to-date and accurate information, primarily through the free online HIV/AIDS course, which includes a section on community standards.
The POLHN HIV/AIDS course focus on teaching students to:
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