Login

Information about HIV AIDS


Human Immunodefficiency Virus (HIV) is a retrovirus that targets vital cells of the immune system. As infection progresses and accelerates, afflicted patients lose their ability to fight off infections from pathogens that are not a problem for healthy immune systems. Once a patient’s immune system cell count reaches a critical level (CD4+ count of less than 200 per micro liter), the person is considered to have Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS).

How Does It Work?

HIV is a retrovirus that encodes itself into the host’s DNA shortly after infection, allowing it to lie dormant for variable periods of time. In some people, the virus becomes active soon after DNA integration, while in others it is can be undetectable for fifteen years or more. The median incubation period for HIV is about ten years, during which time the host may transmit the disease but shows no symptoms.

HIV is spread through the transfer of bodily fluids including:

• Blood

• Semen and pre-ejaculate

• Vaginal fluids

• Breast milk

Although these bodily fluids do contain the virus, HIV is not spread through:

• Sweat

• Saliva

• Mucus

• Tears

• Feces

• Urine

Additionally, insects who feed on human bodily fluids cannot transmit the disease from infected feedings to others (i.e. mosquitoes).

Prevention

The primary means through which HIV spreads is through sexual intercourse and various sexual acts. Therefore, the most effective method of prevention is abstinence. For those sexually active, latex or polyethylene condoms used every time you have sex is the most effective prevention. Never reuse a condom.

Another possible venue of contraction is the sharing of hypodermic needles with an infected person. This can be easily prevented by ensuring any needle use for either a tattoo or intravenous drug administration is a brand new needle. The virus is rarely transmitted through blood transfusions due to contemporary methods of screening the blood.

Women who may become pregnant or are considering pregnancy should always seek testing and counseling if there is any risk of an HIV infection. Those who test positive may be advised to never breastfeed, and may also be given drugs to prevent infecting their baby.

Treatment

There is currently no cure for AIDS and no vaccine for the HIV virus. The main method of treatment is the use of Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART), which can slow the activity of HIV and promote healthy immune system function. This is done through a “cocktail” of multiple antiretroviral agents. However, HAART will not cure the patient or remove all levels of HIV. Discontinuing use of the HAART regimen will lead to a rapid increase in HIV activity and decline in CD4+ cells.

There are many known side-effects to using such a potent combination of medicines including but not limited to:

• Increased risk of heart disease

• Kidney failure

• Dyslipidemia and lipodystrophy

• Insulin resistance

• Birth defects

Finally, the virus is constantly mutating and thus drug-resistance strains of the virus can form at alarming rates.

Testing

The majority of testing for HIV is done by private doctors in hospitals or health management facilities. Most of these testing areas keep their procedures confidential and some are completely anonymous, attaching only a number to the specimen for identification.

HIV is generally tested via observation of the immune system’s antibodies that are produced to ward off the virus. The window period for this test is approximately ninety days; if a person is tested within these three months immediately following infection, there is a significantly higher chance of a false negative test result. In other words, the test may come back negative when in fact the patient is infected. In rare cases, the participant may need six months before antibody levels are detectable.
It is important to seek immediate medical attention if you think you have been exposed to the hepatitis C virus.  Your doctor may perform a blood test and liver biopsy to diagnose a hepatitis infection.  Regular testing for people at risk of acquiring hepatitis C is recommended to detect the infection in its earliest stages, before any damage to the liver has occurred.  Liver damage often occurs before any symptoms are present.

Complications

While some people recover from this condition with no permanent damage, many people experience a gradual attack on the liver that will eventually lead to cirrhosis, liver failure or even cancer in some cases.  These complications may develop after 20 to 30 years of infection with hepatitis C, which is why treatment for chronic infections is essential to preserving the health of the liver.

Treatment

Hepatitis C does not always require treatment, especially if you are not experiencing symptoms and have a low risk of developing a chronic condition.  Most patients undergo combination drug therapy of peginterferon and ribavirin for several months in hopes of curing the infection or preventing liver damage.  A liver transplant may be required for people with severe infections.  Drug treatment is usually still needed after surgery as the infection is likely to recur.

Patients who do not require treatment will likely need to undergo regular blood testing to monitor the progression of the disease and begin treatment at the earliest signs of liver abnormalities.

Prevention

Although there is no vaccine for hepatitis C, you can protect yourself against infection by practicing safe sex and proper hygiene, avoiding sharing needles and wearing gloves to touch another person’s blood.  These steps are also important if you are already infected, along with avoiding alcohol and illegal drugs.  Open communication with your partner and other loved ones can also help reduce your risk of spreading or contracting hepatitis C or any other STD.

Despite the serious complications associated with hepatitis C, it can be a manageable condition with proper treatment and life changes.  We provide comprehensive care for hepatitis C and other STDs, and can help you develop a customized treatment plan to help you maintain an active and healthy life .