What is HIV/AIDS?

hiv 1HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that affects certain white blood cells—CD4 T cells—that manage human immune system responses. When these blood cells are damaged, it makes it more difficult for people to fight off infections or diseases. This condition is called "HIV disease."

 

AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome) - Humans typically don't fall ill immediately after being infected with the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). It may take six months to ten years for the infected person to begin having symptoms of AIDS. This particular type of virus attacks the human immune system and may eventually take the person's life.

 

Most Common Routes of HIV Transmission

  • Unprotected sexual intercourse  with an infected person.
  • Anal or vaginal sex or having an exchange of body fluids i.e. uch as semen and vaginal fluids.
  • Blood exchange – blood transfusion or contact with HIV infected blood and pharmaceutical blood preparations, sharing unsterilized injection equipment i.e. needles or syringes with an HIV infected person, injection or transfusion of contaminated blood or blood products, donations of semen (artificial insemination), skin grafts or organ transplants.
  • Mother to infant transmission – Babies can become infected with HIV through their mothers who are HIV positive. HIV can be passed on during pregnancy, at birth and through breastfeeding

HIV is NOT Transmitted through:

Light kisses, mosquito bites, physical contact that does not include sexual intercourse, such as: holding hands, hugs, having meals together, sharing the same toilet seat, swimming or sharing the same classroom. These activities do not transmit the virus because the HIV virus does not invade the human body through intact skin. It cannot live for long outside the body, so to be infected with HIV you need to allow some body fluid from an infected person to get inside your body. The virus can enter the body via contact with the bloodstream or by passing through delicate mucous membranes, such as inside the vagina, rectum or urethra.




What are the symptoms if infected with HIV?

Most of the patients newly infected with HIV will present symptoms of acute HIV infection, which are similar to those of flu. The symptoms may include prolonged fever, sore throat, headache, myalgia, skin rashes, and lymphadenopathy. Subsequently, HIV-infected persons may become asymptomatic for a period of 5 to 10 years.

In the advanced stage of HIV Infection, HIV infected persons may develop:

 

  • Unknown causes of fever
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Diarrhea
  • Cough
  • Oral Candidiasis

Window Phase

This is the period between the infection with HIV and the appearance of detectable antibodies to the virus. During this early stage of infection with HIV, the patient's examinations appear negative because his/her antibodies have not yet been produced. In most cases, this phase may be as long as 6 to 12 weeks following the infection, and it is during this period that the virus is most vigorously replicating and highly infectious.

Latent Phase

This period denotes the time between the infection of the HIV and the appearance of clinical AIDS symptoms. This period can last as long as 5 to 10 years, depending on different cases. During both the window phase and the latent phase, HIV is highly transmittable to other people.

Treatments

hiv 3People with HIV/AIDS who take antiretroviral medicines live longer. They live longer without getting AIDS defining illnesses. But after a long time, the HIV virus learns how to fight the antiretrovirals. The HIV virus is not killed by this medicine. HIV becomes resistant to the medicine. Then the resistant HIV hurts the immune system and the person may get AIDS.

Sometimes when HIV is resistant to one medicine, another medicine can be used. To make less resistance happen, people with AIDS take more than one medicine at the same time. They may take 2-4 medicines at once. This is sometimes called a cocktail or AIDS cocktail.

When HIV gets resistant to one medicine, this is changed to another medicine. So the AIDS cocktail that people with AIDS take changes over time. But after a long time, the HIV learns to be resistant to many drugs. This is called multi-drug-resistant (acronym MDR) HIV. After the HIV in a person has MDR-HIV there may be no more medicines to treat them. So scientistskeep trying to find new medicines to fight HIV.

 

The Five Most Important HIV Medicines Are:

 

  • D4T (stavudine)
  • 3TC (Lamivudine)
  • NVP (nevirapine)
  • AZT (zidovudine)
  • EFZ (efavirenz)

At present, there is still no cure or vaccine for HIV/AIDS.

 

The ABCs of Prevention:

AAbstinence or delaying first sex.

BBeing safer or being faithful to one's partner or by reducing the number of sexual partners.

CCorrect or consistent use of condoms for sexually active young people, couples in which one partner is HIV positive, sex workers and their clients, and anyone engaging in sexual activity with partners who may have been at risk for HIV exposure.

 

What to do if you suspect that you are infected with HIV

If you have engaged in risky behavior, such as: commercial sex trade, one night stands, having multiple sexual partners, anal sex, sexual intercourse with a partner who is known to have sexually-transmitted diseases, sexual intercourse with a partner who is known to be infected with HIV, sharing needles with others, injecting drugs, or you are diagnosed with sexually-transmitted diseases...

You should go to a hospital or public health bureau in your district and get an HIV test. Regardless of the test results (whether positive or negative), it is best to stop all risky sexual behaviors that might lead to an infection of HIV.

If you have been infected with HIV, who can you turn to for help?

Do not panic if you are informed of the fact that you have been infected with HIV. For more information regarding HIV/AIDS prevention and treatment, you can contact the Department of Health at the toll-free number 0800-888995.

For support and assistance, you can also contact Harmony Home  at (886) 27389600

 

We are all human and we are all vulnerable to HIV.    Be responsible, be educated, know how to be protected, and be safe!

If in doubt, please go to your nearest health care center that provides anonymous HIV tests and have yourself tested.