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HIV Pandemic Review: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

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Introduction

This article looks at the HIV pandemic and its worldwide prevalence. Currently, HIV is the worst health epidemic that threatens the lives of millions around the globe. The global situations and trends exhibit the damaging statistics of the disease around the world, whereby the virus has infected almost 75 million people since the start of the epidemic. Besides this, the disease also killed nearly 36 million people. As at the end of 2012, there were around 35.3 million people living with HIV, with an estimated 0.8 percent of them being adults aged 15 to 49. As such, the prevalence of the HIV epidemic continues to traverse across all quarters of the globe, although the burden of the epidemic varies considerably between regions and countries. The worst-hit area in the world in Sub-Saharan Africa, where nearly one in every 20 adults is living with HIV, accounts for 71% of people living with HIV worldwide (Sidibé, Zuniga, and Montaner 6).

HIV Pandemic Review: Signs and Symptoms, Causes, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention

I am exploring this epidemic of HIV because I want to sensitize people on the prevalence of the disease, as well as assist in instituting significant changes that might bring down the afore-mentioned statistics. HIV and AIDS is not a killer disease as purported across various platforms, but a preventable and manageable health condition that people can live with and still fulfill all their dreams, goals and aspirations in life (Bahcall 1159).

 Thesis statement

Management of HIV and AIDS to reduce its global prevalence and infection rates

What is HIV/AIDS

HIV refers to Human Immunodeficiency Virus, which causes Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, mostly known as AIDS. When this virus infects a person, he or she gets weak and loses the ability to fight other opportunistic infections, including even cancer. Many people who have HIV end up testing positive for AIDS after developing other opportunistic infections, especially after their immunity levels drop. As such, having HIV does not always mean that one has AIDS (Dodds, 790). However, a person can live as many years as possible with this virus before developing AIDS. HIV and AIDS are not curable diseases. Due to an increase in research and medication available today, a person can live a healthy life with minimal interruption in quality of life.

HIV usually attacks and destroys the CD4 white blood cells, commonly known as the T-cell, whose primary function is to fight diseases in the body. As such, when the immune system of T-cells reduces to a shallow point, one loses the ability to fight infections in his or her body. However, several conditions arise for patients infected with HIV, especially with this reduction and failure of their immune system, a condition called AIDS-defining illness (John 65).

What is the Difference Between HIV and AIDS?

There are many differences between HIV and AIDS. One of the differences being HIV is the virus that attacks the t-cells in the immune system of a person. At the same time, AIDS is an immunodeficiency syndrome that appears later in advanced stages of HIV infections. Another difference is that HIV is a virus, while AIDS is a medical condition that occurs in the body system of a person. When carrying out HIV tests, it is possible to identify other infections while still in their early stages. As such, seeing such a disease at its early stages will enable the patient to use preventive drugs to slow the rate at which it replicates, thereby delaying the development of AIDS. Patients with AIDS have HIV, and they can pass on the infection to other people, primarily through bodily fluids (Jones, Cremin, and Abdullah, et al. 274).

What are the Signs and Symptoms of HIV/AIDS?

There is a difference between a sign and a symptom. A sign is something that other people, apart from the patient, can detect, such as a swelling, a change in skin color, or a rush. On the other hand, a symptom is something only a patient can feel and describe, such as fatigue, dizziness, and headache. Most people with HIV symptoms develop them because of infections caused by viruses, parasites, bacteria, and fungi. This condition does not usually arise with a person who has a healthy immune system that is always ready to protect the body against infections. Most people who have HIV can live for several years without any appearance of symptoms, while others, after catching the virus, can develop symptoms such as flue on a period of two to six weeks from infection (Kazanjian 363).

 People with HIV infections may have symptoms such as general body weakness, joint pains, enlarged glands, chills, fever, muscle ache, and sweating (mostly at night). In most cases, after a patient experiences the initial symptoms, these symptoms disappear. There will be no other symptoms seen for some more years to come (Matthews, Geretti, Goulder, and Klenerman 25). During this period that signs are not visible, the virus continues to develop and damage the patient’s immune system. This process can last up to ten years, making the infected person look healthy and feel well. If this virus remains untreated, it weakens the body’s ability to fight infections, thereby exposing the patient to severe illnesses. This is the last stage of the disease.

This stage also has many other symptoms that appear later on, such as permanent tiredness, swollen glands lasting for weeks, blurred vision, and shortness of breath (Sidibé, Zuniga, and Montaner 6). In this late stage, the patient is highly exposed to the risk of developing a life-threatening illness such as invasive cervical cancer, lung cancer, tuberculosis, pneumonia, and acute aseptic meningitis. The best way to control these life-threatening diseases is through proper HIV treatment.

 What Causes HIV/AIDS?

HIV is a virus that infects only the essential organs of the human immune system. This disease continues in the absence of antiretroviral therapy. The rate at which the disease progresses in the body of a carrier varies from one individual to another depending on numerous factors. Some of these factors include the infected person’s genetic inheritance, access to health care, and the body’s ability to defend itself against HIV. However, infection of HIV is in many ways (Bahcall 1159). Some of the means of the disease include sexual transmission whereby one gets infected with the virus when he or she gets in contact with an infected sexual organ such as a rectal genital. This can also occur while having unprotected sex, including oral sex or sharing sex toys with a person infected with HIV.

Another way that can cause HIV infection is blood transmission, whereby one can be given blood already infected with HIV. Another channel of disease is prenatal communication whereby a mother can affect the child during pregnancy, childbirth, and when breastfeeding her child. Those individuals who give and receive tattoos and piercings should be careful because they are also at risk of HIV infection. There are many misconceptions concerning HIV and AIDS in today’s society. It is imperative to clarify that it is not possible to transmit the virus through hugging, casual kissing, shaking hands and sharing towels, touching unbroken skin, sneezing, and other forms of casual contact (Matthews, Geretti, Goulder and Klenerman 25).

How to Diagnose HIV/AIDS

In 2011, the CDC (Center for Disease Control and Prevention), the USA found that one out of every five HIV positive Americans is unaware of their HIV status. Of those who are aware, only 40% are receiving medical care and proper treatment. Diagnosis of HIV is through a blood test, which undergoes screening specifically for the virus alone. If the blood has an infection of the virus, and the results are ‘positive’, the blood is going through a series of re-tests for confirmation and before a positive effect is given to the patient. However, those whose tests come out to be positive have to undergo some other tests to confirm how far the infection has progressed and to decide on the best time to start treatment. If the person has been exposed to the virus, he or she should get tested as soon as possible, as the earlier the virus is detected, the more likely the treatment will be successful (Dodds 790).

By being checked and knowing the results, a patient will be able to take precautions to prevent it from spreading to other people. After a person is infected with HIV, it can take up to three weeks to three months for the infection to show again in the testing. However, re-testing is advisable (John 65). 

In October 2012, scientists from Imperial College in London reported having developed a susceptible sensor that detects viral infections, including HIV. They said that this sensor is ten times more sensitive at identifying HIV biomarkers than anything else in the market today.

What are the Treatment Options for HIV/AIDS?

In June 2013, the World Health Organization issued a treatment for HIV/AIDS known as earlier HIV antiretroviral treatment crucial. This treatment method reduces the risk of transmission, improves the quality of life, and extends the life expectancy of an infected person. When a patient’s T-cells are lower than expected, they should start treatment immediately. Currently, there is no cure for HIV/ AIDS. However, there are several treatment options that one can pursue and that are more efficacious with the ability to improve the general health and quality of life of a patient (Jones, Cremin, and Abdullah, et al. 274).

There are different treatments for HIV. Emergency HIV pills are treatments that an individual can use if he or she feels exposed to the virus within 72 hours or three days. This is an anti-HIV medication called PEP (Post – Exposure Prophylaxis) and may help an individual stop the infection in the body system. PEP is a very demanding treatment, which lasts for at least four weeks and has some unpleasant side effects such as fatigue, nausea, malaise, and diarrhea. Another cure for HIV is the use of antiretroviral drugs or ARVs. This mode of treatment fights the infection and reduces the spread of the virus in the body system of a patient. Generally, most of the patients take a combination of medication known as HAART (Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy) to help boost their immune system. 

HIV treatment is a lifelong and permanent treatment that an infected person has to undergo. This treatment is based on pills, which the patients have to be taken on a regular schedule every time. One will experience some common side effects while on medication such as congenital disabilities, skin rashes, fatigue, moodiness, and diarrhea.

Prevention

There are many ways that HIV can be prevented from spreading. One of the methods is to avoid drug abuse and needle sharing. Intravenous drug use is an essential factor in the transmission of HIV in countries that are developed. Sharing of needles with a person infected can expose other users to contract HIV infection and even other viruses such as hepatitis C. Some programs such as needle-exchange are being used today to reduce the diseases caused by drug abuse. Another prevention that can be taken is by taking precautions to reduce the risk of exposure to contaminated blood. At all times, health care workers should use barriers such as shield, gown, gloves, protective eyewear, and masks to be protected from being infected with the virus. Washing of the skin frequently and thoroughly after being in contact with blood or any other bodily fluids can help to prevent the chances of infection.

HIV is also transmissible during pregnancy. However, the mother can undertake an effective treatment plan to prevent the transmission of HIV to her baby. It is imperative to note that Anti-HIV medicines can be harmful to the unborn child. Therefore, it is appropriate for the mother to seek medical guidance while in her pregnancy. Such precautions will assist in protecting the health of the baby and ensure its safe delivery. Further prevention of the baby’s health can be through a cesarean section birth, which prevents transmission of infection from the mother to child during childbirth. After delivery, breastfeeding will have to give way to bottle-feeding to avoid transmission of the virus from the mother to child through breast milk (Kazanjian 363).

Also, undertaking a comprehensive campaign in health education will be very instrumental in reducing risky behavior within the society that may lead to subsequent infections.

Management of HIV

Management of HIV requires the application of several measures. One key concept is adherence. Treatment of HIV is only valid if the patient commits himself or herself to the treatment program, and does not fail in taking the medication regularly and on time. Patients also need to take their medicine correctly and undertake steps that help them avoid opportunistic illnesses to maintain general good health. A patient infected with HIV also needs to take additional precautions and be extra cautious with his or her lifestyle to prevent exposure from infection

Conclusion

In conclusion, it is evident from the above review that it is possible to manage HIV/AIDS to reduce its effect within society. One does not die of HIV as soon as he or she contracts it, but it takes time to succumbs to the disease. Equally so, it becomes much more comfortable to manage and control the disease and live a full life just like any other reasonable and healthy person. Behavior change is the key to reducing the spread of this virus across the globe, majorly judging from the fact that the main channel of transmission of the disease is through sexual intercourse. Safe sex, faithfulness, few sex partners, fidelity, and abstinence are proposed workable solutions for behavior change. Also, patients infected with the disease can use ARV drugs to reduce replication of the virus in the body and prolong life. On the other hand, researchers should also continue tests and investigations to develop the cure for AIDS so that they can save humanity from the epidemic.

Works Cited;
  • Bahcall, Orli. HIV-1 origins and spread. Nature Genetics. Nov 2014, Vol. 46 Issue 11, p1159-1159. 1p. retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=bcb4eccc-9c10-4a3d-9c7f-01ed61b34a48%40sessionmgr4005&vid=0&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=99111170
  • Dodds, Catherine. Living with HIV and Dying with AIDS: Diversity, Inequality and Human Rights in the Global Pandemic. Sociology of health & illness. Jun 2014, Vol. 36 Issue 5, p789-791. 0p. http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?vid=3&sid=e47a50fa-e52f-4edd-9606-3dcac87d85de%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=96838740
  • John, Williamson. A Generation at Risk: The Global Impact of HIV/AIDS on Orphans and Vulnerable Children. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2005. Print. Retrieved from http://books.google.co.ke/books?id=8GWI7HQzyvcC&dq=hiv+aids&source=gbs_navlinks_s
  • Jones, Alexandra, Cremin Ide, and Abdullah Fareed, et.al. Transformation of HIV from pandemic to low-endemic levels: a public health approach to combination prevention. Lancet. 7/19/2014, Vol. 384 Issue 9939, p272-279. 8p. retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=5e6da705-484f-4c89-8687-39b8d0737920%40sessionmgr4001&vid=0&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=97113246
  • Kazanjian, Powel. The AIDS Pandemic in Historic Perspective. Journal of the History of Medicine & Allied Sciences. Jul2014, Vol. 69 Issue 3, p351-382. 32p. retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=4235db04-0da3-44d1-8bf1-e3187e5cdde9%40sessionmgr4004&vid=0&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=97038028
  • Matthews, Philippa, Geretti Anna Maria, Goulder, Philip J.R. and Klenerman, Paul. Epidemiology and impact of HIV coinfection with Hepatitis B and Hepatitis C viruses in Sub-Saharan Africa.  Journal of Clinical Virology. Sep 2014, Vol. 61 Issue 1, p20-33. 14p. retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=744e67f6-d728-41e4-ad04-93a9e75b9091%40sessionmgr4002&vid=0&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=97386223
  • Sidibé, Michel,  Zuniga José M. and Montaner  Julio. Leveraging HIV Treatment to End AIDS, Stop New HIV Infections, and Avoid the Cost of Inaction. Clinical Infectious Diseases. Jul2014, Vol. 59 Issue suppl_1, pS3-S6. 1p. retrieved from http://web.a.ebscohost.com.library.collin.edu/ehost/detail/detail?sid=0c0b004a-523b-4a89-b3af-6e98b10af9e2%40sessionmgr4003&vid=0&hid=4109&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=a9h&AN=96950313

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