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, or Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, is a disease of the human immune system which can be contracted by contact with bodily fluids such as blood, semen or breast milk. The disease is at pandemic proportions in sub-Saharan Africa. Although the region only represents 14.5% of the world's population, contributes 69% of total infections and 72% of deaths. Around 5.0% of the adult population is thought to be carrying the virus. In some areas large parts of a generation have been wiped out, leaving children to live with their grandparents, in orphanages or out on the streets.

It is thought that the virus first originated in Africa, possibly having been transmitted from chimpanzees.

The spread of Aids has been worsened by the official denial of the disease by certain governments and the recommendation by church leaders against the use of condoms. Massive efforts are presently under way to try to bring retro-viral drugs to sufferers and try to stem the continued spread of the virus.

Official figures in the UK indicate that 80% of HIV infections are acquired when travelling overseas. Presumably a good proportion of these are acquired in Africa. We have met young people travelling in Africa who have contracted the virus through having unprotected sex with local people. They were not sufficiently aware and did not take the necessary precautions. Here are some basic tips ...

- Avoid contact with any bodily fluids such as blood, semen, breast milk and saliva.
- Never allow a second-hand needle to be used on you.
- Never have an unscreened blood transfusion.
- Abstain from having sex.
- Avoid sex if you have any lesions or ulcers which might increase the chance of infection.
- Avoid unsafe sex, always use a condom
- Visit a clinic immediately after unprotected sex in order to get post-exposure prophylaxis.

Disclaimer : Please note that all of the information on this page and elsewhere in the health section of our website is provided for information only. We suggest that you always refer to a health professional when seeking medical advice.
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