The Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a lentivirus, a member of the retrovirus family, and is the causation of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HIV has two distinctions: HIV-1 has a high infection rate, and has spread globally. HIV-2 has a low infection rate, and is defined to West Africa.
AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) in humans is a condition of progressive failure of the immune system, allowing infections and cancers to thrive.
Infection with HIV occurs with the transfer of blood, pre-ejaculate, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. Both, the free virus, and virus within infected immune cells, is present in these bodily fluids.
Predominant routes of transmission
- Unsafe sex
- Contaminated needles
- Breast milk
- Perinatal transmission (HIV transfer from mother to newborn at birth.)
The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers HIV a pandemic threat. Disregarding the consequences, complacency about HIV may play a key role in HIV risk. AIDS has killed more than 25 million people from its discovery in 1981 to the year 2006, and has infected about 0.6% of the world’s population. In 2004, 2.1 million people lost their lives to AIDS. The year 2009 saw an improvement with only 1.8 million people dying from AIDS. Poverty, and economic retardation in Sub-Saharan Africa are responsible for the highest count of 22.5 million infections (68% of the global total).
HISTORY IN AUSTRALIA
Initially, HIV gained a strong hold in At-Risk groups. Australia recognised and responded to the HIV pandemic swiftly, and successfully created effective disease prevention, and public health education programs. As a result, Australia has achieved, and maintained, a low rate of HIV infection.
STAGES OF INFECTION
HIV infects vital cells in the human immune system, namely the helper T cells. When numbers decline below critical levels, cell mediated immunity is lost, and the body’s ability to fight back infections and disease becomes impaired or impossible. Many untreated HIV infected individuals eventually develop AIDS, and may die from complications caused by infections and diseases, associated with a progressive failure of the immune system.
Infection with HIV-1 is associated with a progressive decrease of the CD4+ T cell, and an increase of HIV in the blood. The ratio of CD4+ T cells to HIV in the blood allows to determine the stage of infection.
HIV stages include;
- Acute or primary infection
Symptoms in the acute stage are non- specific, and may be easily dismissed or misdiagnosed. Failure to recognise the syndrome bears a risk of spreading the infection, due to the highly contagious nature of the disease during this stage. Untreated acute infections can last several weeks, and may include non-specific symptoms.
Symptoms stage 1
- Swollen lymph nodes
- Sore throat
- Muscle pain
- Mouth and esophageal sores
The latency stage shows few or no symptoms and can last from 2 weeks to 20 years and longer, depending on the individual and their circumstances. During this stage of infection, HIV is active in the lymph nodes that may appear persistently swollen. Patients in this second stage of HIV are still infectious. Early treatment with antiretroviral therapy achieves significant improvement, as compared to deferred therapy.
When CD4+ T cell counts fall under 200 per microliter, cell mediated immunity is lost. Infections, and a variety of microbes, appear.
Progressive development of symptoms
- Unexplained weight loss
- Recurring respiratory tract infections
- Otitis media
- Skin rashes
- Oral ulceration
- Oral candidiasis
- Herpes simplex infections, if previously acquired, worsens
- Epstein-Barr virus-induced B-cell lymphomas
- Kaposi’s sarcoma
Late stages of AIDS may present symptoms
- Infection with cytomegalovirus (another herpes virus) or Mycobacterium avium complex becomes more prominent.
Significantly improved and life quality enhancing medical treatments and specific antiviral drugs are available in Australia. Good clinical management of HIV infections with prolonged life expectancy outcomes are achievable, with most HIV infected patients not progressing to AIDS.
PREVENTION WHAT IS U=U
U=U is a new way to end HIV. A new way of effective, ongoing medical treatment can achieve an undetectable viral load and means there is zero risk of you passing HIV on to your partner((s). See your doctor for advice.
- The foremost HIV protection method is the use of barrier condoms and dams.
- Regular sexual health checks allow for early detection and treatment.
- Once exposed to HIV, see your doctor immediately. A prescription drug PEP can prevent viral development if administered 24 – 48 hours after exposure.
- NEW – Pre-Exposure Prophylaxis Medication (PrEP). See your doctor or sexual health clinic for advise.
- Your sexual partner(s) need to know your HIV status. They have a right to protect their health, and to give or withdraw their sexual consent.
- Upon positive HIV diagnosis, your doctor might suggest contact tracing while adhering to professional confidentiality and discretion.
- Blood transfusions, if required, are mostly safe in Australia due to excellent blood screening techniques.
- Transference of the virus through sex toys and pleasure enhancing devices sharing, and needle and tourniquet sharing must be avoided by using strictly clean equipment.
SEXUAL HEALTH COUNSELLING
Sex Addiction Australia offers information, support, and sexual health counselling to clients living with HIV infections and their partners. Please make a confidential appointment with Heide in her Sydney office and online during AEST office hours (+61) 02 9380 4486 or email firstname.lastname@example.org