Table of Contents
HIV: Human Immunodeficiency Virus
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. This virus can lead to AIDS if not treated. HIV is not what it used to be and modern advances in medicine have helped many patients not develop AIDS and be able to live a healthy lifestyle. When a person is infected with HIV, the virus enters the body and lives and multiplies primarily in the white blood cells. These are the immune cells that normally protect us from the disease. We will discuss the details of the disease and how it devastated so many people because of the lack of knowledge and education on how to deal with it.
HIV -1 and HIV -2
There is two distinct types of HIV called HIV -1 and HIV -2. HIV-2 primarily lives in West Africa, whereas HIV-1 extends worldwide. In HIV -1 is likely to worsen and the average level of immune system activation are higher. Three groups of HIV-1 are labeled N, O, and M, based on their differences in genome. Viral loads are also higher. The HIV-2 strain is less likely to progress, and the average level of immune activation system are lower. They share traits including how they are contracted as well. However, HIV-1 patients are more capable of producing an infection than in patients with HIV -2.
HIV can be contracted through unprotected sex, oral sex, blood, and the sharing of contaminated needles. Transmission is based on your current viral load and count. These things determine how healthy you are and how at risk you are to further infection. The congregation of HIV-1 in blood fluctuates depending on the stage of the disease. The acute infection is when HIV in the blood gets high within a few weeks of infection. Viral replication during acute infection is caused by a cytokine storm which is a host. When a person is infected with the flu virus their immune system begins to fight back using different cells to attack the invader. A macrophage acknowledges unfamiliar material like viruses and attempts to consume them. This infection tends to result from sexual exposure. Things like substance abuse, mental disorders, and high-risk sexual behavior increase the rise in transmission of HIV. Sexual contact is a way for transmission of HIV because the tissues of the anus and vagina are easily injured and infected. A person is about ten times more likely to contract HIV through anal intercourse than through vaginal intercourse. This is because the tissues in the anal area are far easier to scare. The presence of another STD can increase the risk for getting exposed to HIV. This is because the same risk behaviors that followed in the person contracting a STD increases that person’s chance of being exposed to HIV. HIV is not passed from one person to another in daily contact that does not involve either exposure to blood or sexual contact. You can not contract HIV from touching, kissing, or eating food prepared by someone else.
In some cases, it appears that HIV‐1 can also enter by an alternative endocytosis pathway, however, this usually results in inactivation or degradation in lysosomes (Marechal et al., 2001). First, the RNA genome goes into the cytoplasm after the fusion of the viral membrane and the target cell. Then RNA is converted to the DNA form through the process of reverse transcription. The genetic material is in the form of RNA. There are two strands of RNA in each HIV-1 virus particles. The enzyme reverse transcriptase begins the formation of the double-stranded molecule of DNA by duplicating the sequence of RNA. The DNA genome is then combined into the host cell DNA. Next, proteins of the viral genome are made. These pieces form new virions that can propagate. A virion is not the same as a virus but it is designed for the transmission of the nucleic acid genome among the host cell and propagate means to breed or spread widely. Recently there have been many advances in understanding HIV-1 and how it assembles in the body. This is due to a consequence of cellular factors that arbitrate this process.
HIV treatment involves taking medication that best suits your infection based on the strain you’re exposed too. Your doctor usually will prescribe you something like a coattail that slows the effectiveness of the disease in your body. The drugs used to treat it is called Antiviral therapy or ART. Although there is not a cure, yet ART minimizes the amount of viral load in your blood. ART can cause side effects that vary depending on the individual. Some common side effects are nausea and vomiting, diarrhea, dry mouth, dizziness, and fatigue. So, it’s important to stick to this regimen considering the side effects. It’s important that you take ART medicine at the same time every day so that your body doesn’t become immune and have the chance to multiply and weaken your immune system. Having an undetectable viral load is good for an HIV-positive person’s overall health. It also reduces the chance of transmitting the virus to a partner who does not have HIV. In addition to taking ART using condoms and getting tested for STDs is another great way to lower your risk of getting or transmitting HIV.
An important factor affecting HIV progression is the ability to achieve viral suppression. Taking antiviral medication helps slow the progression and reach viral suppression. Factors that can affect HIV progression is your age, being older can result in a faster progression of HIV. If you have a co-infection such as tuberculosis or hepatitis C it can affect your overall health. Your lifestyle plays a role such as having a poor diet or constant stress causing the disease to progress. The timing of your diagnosis is also important because the longer you are between your treatment the more time the disease must progress. Finally, the ability to achieve viral suppression is the most important factor by far. If you can take your medicine on time every day and reach this goal you are taking healthy steps to a lifestyle.
Today, there is more surgical equipment available to prevent HIV. Abstinence is the first and safest way to remain STD free. Limiting your sexual partners, not sharing needles, and using condoms are all effective ways to prevent HIV. Pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis are new advantages today that also gives you a great chance of not contracting HIV. Pre-exposure prophylaxis or PREP is when people at high risk for HIV take medicine to lower their chances of getting infected. Daily Prep reduces the risk of getting HIV from sex by more than 90% (CDC, 2019). If you combine this treatment with condoms and regular checkups than your chances of contracting the virus is very low. Post-exposure prophylaxis or PEP means taking antiretroviral medicines after being exposed to the disease. PEP is used in emergency situations and must be used within 72 hours of recent exposure. Both treatments can be very effective when dealing with HIV and have made a major impact in the clinical world.
Stages of HIV
Typically, there are three stages of the disease; acute infection, asymptomatic, and AIDS. Within the first 2 to 4 weeks the body’s response to infection is an acute infection. At this time, people have large amounts of the virus in their blood and can be very contagious. During this stage, people don’t feel sick or know they are infected. During stage 2 or the asymptomatic infection, HIV is still active but reproduces at very low levels. Individuals might not feel sick at this time and this disease can remain stagnant for up to 10 years. At this stage, your viral load goes up and your CD4 count goes down. You begin to have symptoms as the virus levels increase in your body. People with AIDS usually have a poorly damaged immune system that can make way to more opportunistic illnesses like pneumonia or CMV.
Illiteracy, racism, technological advancements, and economic ill treatment have resulted in a worldwide problem. The HIV infection, anxiety, and fear of discrimination have led people to avoid disclosing their HIV status. Being stigmatized results in a period of extended life’s work. For women, this could be extremely difficult seeing that helplessness are experienced by most female patients who are faced with rejection. According to WHO, 17.4 million women were living with HIV worldwide in 2014 constituting 51% of all adults living with HIV (Kontomanolis, 2017). Fortunately, from 2001 to 2013, the annual number of new HIV infections has declined by 38% globally, followed by a significant decline in AIDS-related deaths (Kontomanolis, 2017). So, it is society’s responsibility to protect and eliminate biases in clinical settings so that all people can be cared for.
Despite advances, today problems persist. In developing worlds, intervention on this disease remains unlimited. There is still no means of a cure for HIV, but we have made progress to prevent the disease and educate those who are at risk of contracting it. Scientist says they have found a cure for HIV in some mice and humans could be next. This gives hope to future generations that modern medicine can officially achieve a goal that will help millions of people.