Complete HIV Guide: Amazing HIV facts You Should Know!

(Last Updated On: November 7, 2015)

Table of Content

Introduction
What Do HIV and AIDS Mean?
What Causes AIDS
Where did HIV come from?
How can you get HIV/AIDS?
How do you know if you are infected with HIV?
How does HIV test Work?
Can HIV be cured?
How Can HIV be prevented?

Introduction

Aids was first discovered in 1981. So far, giant strides have been recorded in the treatment and care for people living with HIV/AIDS. Even various national governments have taken far-reaching steps to nip in the bud the transmission of the disease by governments of different nations. Nevertheless, HIV /AIDS still continues to ravage mankind! In fact, there are still a couple of burning questions people seek answers to everyday concerning the disease. Therefore, the purpose of this HIV guide is to provide a great deal of accurate health information as it relates to HIV facts based on current medical knowledge. It will provides answers to burning questions about HIV based on current medical knowledge.

 

What Do HIV and AIDS Mean?

HIV or Human Immunodeficiency Virus is the name given to the virus causing the dreaded AIDS disease. AIDS means Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome which is the terminal stage of the disease. AIDS is usually characterized by severe suppression of the immune system which encourages the growth of opportunistic infections, secondary growth of cancers and neurological diseases.

According to the CDC report on HIV Over 600,000 cases of AIDS were reported by the end of 1997 in the United States. About 60% of these infected individuals had died despite treatments.

What Causes AIDS?

HIV causes AIDS. There are two strains of HIV, which are HIV 1 and HIV 2. The term “HIV” means HIV 1 in the US 5 except when it is stated otherwise. Both strains attack the CD4+ cells of the immune system. The CD4+ cells are a vital component of the immune system found in blood, which helps the body fight against diseases.

In a few weeks after being infected with the HIV virus, some people may come down with flu-like symptoms while others may experience no symptoms at all. In fact, some individuals living with the HIV virus may look healthy and live for years without showing any symptoms. But, HIV is still affecting them “silently” and they are able to transmit the virus to healthy individuals.

Many people living with HIV, including asymptomatic carriers can benefit greatly from the current treatment plans available. So, it is wise to see a doctor and discuss the treatment options available.

The late or terminal stage of HIV infection is AIDS. When someone has AIDS, it means their immune system has been so severely damaged that they are unable to fight infections and diseases. So, they become prone to all sorts of diseases that you can think of, ranging from viral skin infections such as herpes zoster, or cutaneous mycotic infections( for example oro- pharyngeal candidiasis) as well as a host of other opportunistic infections that would not ordinarily affect individuals with a competent immune system.

In the past, people infected with HIV requires just a short while to progress to AIDS, the terminal stage of the disease. Now, current medical research has produced powerful drugs that could slow down HIV progression to AIDS. So, there is now hope for HIV patients to survive for years or even decades. HIV is no longer a death sentence with the current anti-retroviral drugs available to fight the virus. In fact, strong evidence exists today that we are close to the cure for HIV/AIDS.


Where did HIV come from?

There are different views as to the origin of HIV. The first view believes in the transmission of HIV from animal to man, while the other is from gay men to heterosexuals. To support the first view, scientists believe that a species of chimpanzees in West Africa is the source of the virus. Experimental evidence suggested that a chimpanzee serotype version of the immunodeficiency virus referred to as Simian Immunodeficiency Virus (SIV) got transmitted to man. SIV mutated in man producing HIV. Man became infected through eating the flesh of and having contact with blood from infected chimpanzees.

Over the years, it has been claimed that the disease spreads to other part of the world from Africa due to globalization and migration. However, there are still a couple of debates which fault the chimpanzee to human transmission view of HIV. They claim that SIV cannot survive in the human cells.

The other view is that HIV was first discovered from homosexuals and it spread even to heterosexuals who had previously come in contact with infected blood, semen or vaginal fluids.

What is HIV 2?

HIV 2, a second type of HIV was discovered on 1986. It was isolated from an AIDS patient in Africa. Immunodeficiency seems slow in people with HIV 2. It is a milder form of the virus and those infected with HIV 2 have a less chance of infecting others unlike the HIV 1 virus. However, the virulence or ability to infect other people increases as the disease progresses.

HIV 2 cases are predominantly found in Africa constituting over 1% of the general population, particularly in West African countries such as Nigeria, Sierra Leone, Ghana, Sao Tome, Senegal, Liberia, Togo, sBenin, Burkina Faso and Mali. In Angola and Mozambique, you will find the prevalence of HIV-2 to exceeding 1% of the general population.

The first case of HIV 2 was diagnosed in the United States in 1987. Ever since then, lots of concerted efforts have been put in the prevention of transmission of the HIV scourge.

How can you get HIV/AIDS?

1) You can contact the disease if you have an unprotected sex with someone who already has HIV.

However, bear in mind that:

  • There is a higher chance of being infected through unprotected anal sex than unprotected vaginal sex. So, this means that gay men are more likely to catch HIV / AIDS than others.
  • Even among gays, the chances are higher in unprotected receptive than in insertive anal sex.
  • Your chances of getting infected increase if you have multiple sexual partners or in the presence of sexually transmitted diseases or infections. Having unprotected oral sex is also risky but not as much as unprotected anal or vaginal sex.
  • Sharing of needles and all other skin -piercing instruments in the preparation of illegal drugs use, for example, can increase your chances of being infected with HIV
  • There is a very likely chance that an HIV positive mother can infect her baby during childbirth as the baby pass through the birth canal or when breastfeeding it.

2) Here are the less common ways to get HIV which posses only a small risk include:

  • Eating food that has been pre – chewed by an infected individual. For example, as in the case of a mother trying to chew food before giving her baby in order to enhance digestion in the baby.
  • When a broken skin or mucous membrane comes in contact with an HIV infected blood and blood products.
  • There is little evidence to suggest HIV infection in the case of deep or open-mouth kissing with an infected person who has gum bleeding or mouth sore. Nevertheless, absolute care should be taken in this situation.
  • Although no case of HIV infection through the use of tattooing or skin -piercing instruments has been documented; these situations may pose serious risk if not properly handled.

 

3) Please note however that you can NOT get infected with HIV through:

  • Closed mouth or social kissing
  • Air or water
  • Saliva, tears or sweat
  • Shaking hands or eating in the same dishes or sleeping in the same room with an infected person
  • Transmission by blood sucking insects such as mosquitoes, bed bugs or lice. All studies done in the past have denied any possibility of HIV infection through insect bites.

How do you know if you are infected with HIV?

The only way to know your HIV status is after undergoing an HIV test. Unlike some other diseases, it is difficult to say that an individual has HIV without HIV test evidence, since HIV infection is asymptomatic in most people. As we rightly pointed out, only the right HIV tests can confirm your HIV status. Most people infected with HIV do not show any symptoms, but a few who do may show certain symptoms of HIV.

How does HIV test Work?

Whenever an individual is infected with HIV, the person’s immune system produces antibodies, these are chemicals that the body produces to fight the virus. So, a good number of HIV tests look for these antibodies which are unique to only HIV infections and not other diseases. You can even order an anonymous HIV STD test.

However, there are also a few HIV test kits that detect the HIV viral DNA or proteins directly. These tests can therefore be used to ascertain a person’s HIV status.

However, understand that there is usually a variable “window period” with each case of infection. The window period is the time interval between HIV infection in a person and the time it takes for the person to start producing antibodies which can be clinically detected by antibody tests. It can vary among individuals.

Nevertheless, the chances of passing the virus through sex or skin piercing instruments remain reasonably high during this time.

The average window period for antibodies to be clinically detected in the United States is 25 days. Research has also shown that up to 97% of people will produce detectable antibodies within the first 90 days of infection, even though some people may take longer.

So, it is often best to take another follow up test more than 90 days after the potential exposure time that you feel you would have been exposed to HIV. In some rare cases, note that some people may have a window period of up to 6 months.

Can HIV be cured?

As at the time of writing this HIV guide, there has not been any “official cure” for HIV. However, there are confirmed reports of a 40-year old HIV positive patient in Berlin with leukemia, who has been said to be officially cured of the disease. Many years later when doctors tested the viral load in biopsies from his brain and intestinal tissues, it was found to be clinically undetectable. Amazing!

Reports have it that the patient received HIV resistant bone marrow transplant for his leukemia.

Accidentally, not only did the HIV-resistant bone marrow treated the leukemia but also the HIV. It was gathered that the bone marrow cells transplanted were from an HIV donor who lacked CCR5 receptors, the major sites that the HIV virus attach to in order to destroy the CD 4 T cells and other immune cells of the body.

Consequently, the bone marrow cells transplanted into the patient produced both red blood and white blood cells that lack the CCR5 sites which HIV have affinity for. So, the HIV could not grow or multiply to an extent that it would sustain the infection. So, basically the HIV viral load was undetectable with even the most sophisticated diagnostic tools present today.

Subsequent trials of the same procedure on other patients have not been successful. This is why the Berlin patient remains the only patient to have ever being cured of HIV.

Scientists are still investigating how they can exploit the cells of these HIV resistant individuals who make up only a minute percentage of human population.

How Can HIV be prevented?

I have mentioned above that the most common means of HIV transmission is through anal or vaginal sex as well as through the use of HIV- infected sharp objects. In addition, here are further steps you should take to reduce the risks associated with HIV transmission:

  • It is important you know your HIV status, particularly if you are between 13 and 64 years of age. You should go for HIV testing at least once a year.
  • Ensure you get supportive treatment if you have been tested positive to reduce transmission to others. Having HIV is not a death sentence. You can still live a fairly normal life if you stick to using anti-retroviral drug regimens as prescribed by your doctor or approved health care giver. Your attitude matters at this critical stage please do not infect others.
  • For infected pregnant mothers, there are concrete steps to protect your unborn child from being infected.
  • The right to having safe sex is one of the necessities of life. Infected individuals who are undergoing treatments should practice SAFE SEX with an uninfected partner in a mutually monogamous relationship.
  • Do not have multiple sexual partners.
  • Proper male circumcision provides reduced chances of HIV transmission through vaginal sex
  • You and your partner should get prompt medical treatment if you have STDs or Sexually Transmitted Diseases
  • Do not accept unscreened blood transfusion or multiple uses of needles. Such negative health practices are rare in this modern age. But it is enough to know that care should be taken in areas where they exist

These are important HIV facts we all need to be aware of in order to live a healthy life. We should also show love to people living with HIV / AIDS. Only then can the battle against the HIV pandemic become victorious.

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