What HIV is all about?
HIV represents Human Immunodeficiency Virus. There are two types of HIV, HIV-1(that accounts for 95% of the infections) and HIV-2(only 5%, found mostly in West Africa). Moreover, HIV attacks on specific cells in the body, known as “CD4 cells” (T-helper cells) which fight generally against invaders (microorganisms-during infections) and play a key-role in our immune system! So HIV causes “HIV infection”, and as the disease progresses, more and more immune cells (CD4) are destroyed, which may lead to AIDS!
What is AIDS?
AIDS means Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is actually the latest and more severe stage of HIV infection. It's a disease that weakens the body’s ability to fight (immune system), thus it makes us vulnerable to any opportunistic infection
Chronicle of AIDS /HIV.
In 1981-> there were many cases of rare diseases such as Kaposi sarcoma, and pneumocystis Carinii (causes severe form of pneumonia) in homosexual couples in America.
In 1983-> two different viruses were isolated, the LAV (= lymphadenopathy associated virus) and ARV.
In 1986-> all scientists reached the conclusion that the responsible virus was only one and they named it HIV.
Stages and symptomatology.
HIV infection has 3 stages:
• Acute stage (2-4weeks after the exposure to the virus)
In the acute stage, a person may present flu-like symptoms, such as fever, headaches, sore throat, fatigue, swollen glands, maculopapular rash, while in some cases there may not be any symptoms!
~What PEP is?
PEP (=post exposure prophylaxis)
Is a form of antiretroviral therapy that supresses the reproduction of HIV virus inside the body’s immune cells.If you have a strong suspicion that you have been exposed to HIV virus ( intercourse, working conditions, after sexual abuse,needles etc.) during the last 72 hours, it is important to take a medical advice as soon as possible.In these cases a PEP therapy might be possible, but ONLY it is used in very emergency situations! In order for PEP to be effective, it should start within maximum 3 days from the exposure and the patient is administrated with a daily pill for 28 days.It is extremely important not to skip any pill within during 28 days!
~What PrEP is?
PrEP means Pre-exposure prophylaxis. It is used for persons negative to HIV, but with a high risk of having the virus(due to work conditions, or lifestyle, or positive partners, etc.). It involves a daily pill that has to be followed along with other prophylactic methods such as condoms.
• Chronic stage (starts after the acute phase and may last up to 10 years). It is also called latent phase or asymptomatic phase. During this period HIV virus continues to multiply in a lower rate than in the acute phase. People with HIV can have symptoms such as cough, swollen glands, breathing difficulties, fever, weight loss, diarrhea etc. Nevertheless, mostly this phase is asymptomatic. In both cases(asymptomatic and non-asymptomatic) patients can still be contagious!
• AIDS stage
This is the latest and more severe stage of HIV infection. If a person enters in this stage it means that there is extreme damage of the immune system (with less than 200 CD4 cells/mm3 ), thus making them very susceptible to opportunistic infections, A person with AIDS (without receiving therapy) has a survival rate of 3 years. With an opportunistic infection and no antiretroviral therapy the survival rate drops to almost 1 year!
How HIV is transmitted?
How HIV is NOT transmitted?
IF YOU ARE POSITIVE TO HIV VIRUS YOU CAN TRANSMIT THE DISEASE AT ANY STAGE YOU ARE!
HIV prophylactic methods!
The most important is to prevent a disease rather than treat it!
To reduce your risk of HIV infection:
• Follow the personal hygiene rules, and don’t share your personal items (ex. toothbrushes, towels, underwears etc.).
• Use condoms correctly and every time (in oral, anal, vaginal sex).
• Do not share needles for shooting drugs, making tattoos or piercings.
• If you are in any of the high-risk social groups for infection with HIV virus you should do regular check-ups.
• If you are HIV positive, DON’T forget your daily PEP treatment, or your therapy and always inform your sex-partners!
There is not a single HIV-test for meeting the diagnosis! Right after infection, begins a short period, the so called “WINDOW PERIOD”, which is silent and lasts approximately 28 days. During that period, which is highly infectious, your body starts progressively making antibodies against the virus but not in a sufficient amount in order to be detectable by lab tests. Nowadays there is a rapid HIV test that is performed after the window period and detects the antibodies for HIV. It’s 90% accurate and it’s so rapid that the results are out in a few minutes. If the test is negative you may not follow further serological tests, but if it’s positive you have to make more investigations.
In the near future new technologies are coming to people in order to test themselves(self-testing) and encourage people to check for HIV with more privacy and easier than ever!
Until now there is NO treatment that cures HIV infection! There are only ARV drugs (anti-retro viral) that we use as a therapy in order to suppress the replication of the virus (that keep destroying our body) and strengthen the immune system! In 2016 WHO (world health organism) released new alternative ARV options that are having better tolerability and higher efficacy! While during 2017 only 52% from the total HIV carriers worldwide were receiving ARV therapy and WHO makes great efforts to increase this percentage and give more people a chance to live longer and better!
-> If you want to donate for HIV researches, please take care every time you donate money, be aware of the organization you choose, get information and follow the numbers to ensure donations are well spent!)
*It is advisable to consult your personal physician to assist you appropriately!
Be healthy and happy!
Dr. Chrysoula Valaroutsou is a Greek medical doctor graduated from UOC (english division Constanta,Romania). She is passionate about medicine and always eager to learn more. She has lots of love and loyalty towards serving mankind.
www.who.int , www.hivaids.gr , www.keelpno.gr , www.mayoclinic.org , www.aidsinfo.nih.gov , www.healthline.com , www.hiv.gov , www.avert.org , www.hiv.org , www.endhivwhy.com , www.healthcareamerica.us , www.piktochart.com , www.unaids.org , www.insightcare.com , www.verywellhealth.com .