HEALTH SERIES: HIV and AIDS (Pt 1) – Dr.Chin Akano

 

I observed that there is a lot of confusion among the public about this very serious condition and i will attempt to clarify some of these issues.

 First i will explain what HIV is, and its relationship with AIDS

 

 

WHAT IS HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. Anyone that contacts this virus is said to be having a HIV infection.

WHAT DOES AIDS MEAN?

AIDS stands for Acquired immuno deficiency syndrome. It is actually the late stage of HIV infection. AIDS on its own is not a disease but a group of diseases hence it is called a syndrome. I like to say at this stage that AIDS is no longer a common term used by medical professionals, it is now described as an advanced or late stage of HIV infection.

Before i go on to discuss the way one can catch this HIV infection, the symptoms, how to prevent it and how to treat it, i will make to discuss the two types of HIV infection one can contact.

 

They are as follows:  HIV-1  and HIV- 2

 

HIV-1 is the type that was first discovered in 1981, more serious, highly infectious and virulent. This type is the cause of most cases of HIV infection globally.

 

HIV-2 : This type is commoner in west africa, less infectious and less virulent.

HOW CAN HIV INFECTION BE TRANSMITTED?

The most common ways of getting HIV are:

  • Having unprotected sex  including vaginal,

  • Oral and anal sex and this constitutes the majority of all HIV infections.

  • Using a contaminated needle or syringe to inject drugs.

  • From mother to baby during pregnancy, child birth, or by breastfeeding.

  • Through blood transfusion of blood contaminated by the virus.

  • Any other procedure where there is contact with infected blood like tattooing, ear piercing etc

So, the body fluids that contain enough HIV to infect someone are:

seminal fluid, vaginal fluids, including menstrual fluids, breast milk, blood , the mucous found in the rectum, pre-cum (the fluid that the penis produces for lubrication before ejaculation)

You cannot catch HIV from:

  • kissing

  • contact with unbroken, healthy skin

  • being sneezed on

  • sharing baths, towels or cutlery

  • using the same toilets and swimming pools

  • mouth-to-mouth resuscitation

  • contact with animals or insects such as mosquitoes

 

WHO IS AT GREAT RISK OF CONTRACTING HIV?

  •  Men who have had unprotected sex with men.

  • Women who have had unprotected sex with men who have sex with men.

  • People who inject illegal drugs.

  • People who have had unprotected sex with somebody who has injected illegal drugs. people who have caught another sexually transmitted infection.

  • People who have received a blood transfusion.

  • People with genital ulcers.

  • Commercial sex exposure.


HOW DOES HIV CAUSE ILLNESS IN INFECTED INDIVIDUALS?

When an individual contacts the virus, it gets into the blood stream and attacks the immune system and weakens ones ability to fight infections and disease such as cancer.

If the HIV is left untreated, it will destroy a type of white blood cell called CD4 T-cells, which play an important role in your immune system.

 

The number of CD4 blood cells that you have is called your CD4 count. The lower your CD4 count is, the more likely you are to show signs of illness. However, a low CD4 count is not an illness in itself.

Some people remain well when their CD4 counts get lower, at least for a while. Other people with HIV may start developing symptoms even before their CD4 count is lowered.

It is when your immune system is reasonably compromised and your CD4 count falls so low that one begins to suffer those diseases that were classified as AIDS, now known as advanced or late HIV infection.

This may take up to 10 years or even more to happen depending on the individual, viral load, and environmental factors

WHAT ABOUT THE SLOW PROGRESSORS OR LONG TERM NON-PROGRESSORS (LTNP)?

There are a few infected individuals who take a very long time before progressing to AIDS even without being on treatment. Sometimes it may take up to 20 years from when they are infected to develop AIDS even without treatment. However if they don’t receive treatment they will eventually progress to AIDS very slowly.  These people are said to have a very high immunity.

 

SOME GENERAL FACTS ABOUT HIV INFECTION

  • AIDS was first discovered in 1981

  • WHO reported that AIDS killed more than 1 million people every year from when it was first discovered till in 2006

  • HIV infects about 0.6% of the world’s population.

  • Treatment with anti-retrovirals increases the life expectancy of people infected with HIV.

  • Even after HIV has progressed to diagnosable AIDS, the average survival time with antiretroviral therapy was estimated to be more than 5 years as of 2005.

  • Without antiretroviral therapy, someone who has AIDS typically dies within a year.

  • Sub saharan africa remains by far the worst-affected region, with an estimated 22.5 million people currently living with HIV (67% of the global total), 1.3 million deaths (72% of the global total) and 1.8 million new infections (69% of the global total).

Watch out for part 2 on Wednesday, where I will be  sharing   the symptoms of HIV infection, the phases of the infection, how to prevent it, the treatment and prognosis .

 

Thanks for reading.

 

Dr Chin Akano

Comments

comments

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.

error: Content is protected !!