There are three principal ways in which HIV is transmitted; by way of sexual intercourse, blood transfusion, and from mother to child.While it is possible for HIV to be transmitted through any of these methods, the quantum of infections varies a lot between population groups and countries. For each of the transmission routes, there are quite a few things that can be done at the individual level,and the community and national levels to reduce or eliminate the risk. To have the best rate of success,any program for HIV prevention should make use of all the techniques that are known to be effective rather than a few.
Essential Initial Requirements
One of the things that can be done to prevent HIV transmission in all its forms is to engage in widespread promotion of HIV awareness and how it spreads. Engaging the mass media as well as conducting special campaigns in schools is possibly the best ways of doing it. HIV counseling and testing are also necessary because when a person knows of his infection and he is advised of safe behavioral practices, he is less likely to be responsible for HIV transmission. Another important factor is the delivery of antiretroviral treatment that enables infected persons to enjoy lives that are healthier and longer. The knowledge that the treatment is available and effective is also a great incentive for people to come forward for HIV testing. The process also brings them into contact with HIV workers and allows them to receive messages about prevention and intervention.
Prevention of Sexual Transmission
The chances of becoming infected with HIV is eliminated or vastly reduced if people practice abstinence or delay their first sexual encounter, are faithful to one partner or limit the number of partners, and use condoms correctly and consistently. Behavioral and attitudinal changes regarding safe sex can be brought about by a number of methods like media awareness campaigns, peer education, social marketing, and counseling in small groups. These interventions work the best when they are specifically tailored to the circumstances of the target audience. An essential component of HIV prevention is comprehensive sex education targeted at the youth. Education on practicing safer sex has been seen to be more effective than just advising people to abstain from pre-marital sex.
It is has been proven by a number of studies that the use of condoms is highly effective in HIV prevention when they are used correctly and consistently. Contrary to popular belief, there is also no evidence to show that sexual activity in young people increases with the promotion of condom use. The easy availability of condoms is critical to HIV prevention. Campaigns for the treatment of sexually transmitted infections also facilitates HIV prevention
Prevention of Transmission through Blood
It has been proved that the practice of sharing injection equipment with people infected with HIV to use recreational drugs is a major cause of HIV transmission. Even though there are a number of proven drug treatment programs, there will always be users who are unable or unwilling to give up drugs, and these people should be encouraged to at least not share injection equipment to minimize the infection risk. Also, programs for distributing clean needles and safe disposal of used ones along with drug treatment and HIV counseling and testing with Elisa test kits have shown remarkable results.
HIV transmission by the transfusion of infected blood is a serious concern and can only be prevented by screening the blood for the virus, and whenever possible by heat-treating the blood to eliminate the virus. Restricting blood donations by people with susceptibilities, but without any prejudices, can also be helpful in restricting HIV infections. Routine sterilization or disposal of equipment coming into contact with blood in processes like surgery, circumcision, or tattooing can also have very good results.
Prevention of Mother-To-Child Transmission
An infected mother can transmit HIV to the baby during pregnancy, labor, and delivery and even through breastfeeding. Preventing women from getting infected and also getting unplanned pregnancies are the first steps toward control. If an infected woman does get pregnant; antiretroviral drugs to her, as well as the baby can lead to significant reduction of infection. Delivery by caesarean section can be also effective in limiting exposure of the HIV virus to the baby. Ideally, mothers with HIV should not breastfeed but be advised to consider other infant feeding options, including formula foods.
HIV prevention is best done by taking cognizance of the problem and not shying away due to social stigma. Strong affirmative action based on scientifically proven methods should be taken with the active involvement of both the infected persons and the society they live in.
Author bio: John Miller works for a non-profit that actively campaigns for HIV infection awareness in developing countries. John also leads an initiative that distributes Elisa test kits in large numbers to community hospitals and clinics in Kenya.