HIV/AIDS Basics

Because there is no cure or magic bullet presently available to destroy HIV/AIDS, knowledge and preventive/risk reduction behavioural practices remain our greatest weapons against its continued global spread.


What is HIV?
HIV stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
Human – refers to who is infected (person).
Immunodeficiency – refers to the body system effected, immune system, and how it is negatively effected.
Virus – refers to what type of pathogen causes the infection

What is AIDS?
AIDS stands for Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It is the most advanced stage of HIV infection.
Acquired – refers to the reality that there are specific ways in which an individual can “get” the virus. Except for the unborn, something must be done; some activity must be engaged in for the virus to enter the body. This is an empowering reality. It lets us know that just as one must do something, engage in some type of behaviour, for the virus to enter the body, one can also choose to do something, engage in behaviours that prevent or reduce the opportunity for HIV to enter their body.
Immune – refers to the effected body system, the immune system. The immune system is responsible for protecting the body against foreign bodies such as bacteria, protozoa, fungi, and viruses that cause infections, illness and disease.
Deficiency – refers to the virus’ effect on the immune system. HIV attacks the immune systems healthy fighter cells (white blood cells also called CD4, T4 or T-helper cells), rendering them useless and in the process takes them over to replicate itself. Overtime the immune system is overwhelmed, resulting in the body having more HIV antibodies than CD4 cells. This reduces the body’s ability to fight off infections, illness, disease and neurological problems. It is the body’s inability to protect itself against opportunistic infections that ultimate lead to death.
Syndrome – a collection of symptoms, illnesses, diseases or infections

AIDS Definition – A change from a diagnosis of HIV positive to AIDS is given when an HIV infected individual has
a CD4 Count
< 350 (in some countries < 200), or
1 CDC AIDS case defined Opportunistic infection (OI), or
3 non-defined CDC AIDS case OIs
 
HIV Progression to AIDS Continuum - Progression of HIV Infection
The progression of HIV varies from person to person and depends several factors, including the individual’s health status and health-related behaviours
Point of Infection – HIV antibodies cannot be detected however the virus can be transmitted; disease most readily spread during this period; typically last weeks to 3 months
Window Period – the time frame from point of infection to the development of detectable antibodies (seroconversion); typically last weeks to 3 months, but can last as far as 6 months.
Immune System Decline – asymptomatic phase of HIV infection
AIDS – Results from a compromised immune system in an HIV infected individual; a state of health in which the immune system is no longer able to fight off various illnesses and other health conditions that it once could. In effect, as HIV destroys CD4 cells the immune system begins to weaken and the viral load increases, overtime making HIV positive individuals more susceptible to illnesses and disease that otherwise would not have been a problem for the body to fight off.
HIV LIFE CYCLE

HIV_AIDS_Development_graph

How does HIV multiply in the body?
For HIV to thrive in the body it must reproduce itself. Over time as it replicates itself the immune system's CD4 Count decreases resulting in a weakened immune system.

HIV Replication and Therapy Animations
The purpose of HIV therapy is to interrupt the virus' replication process so that it does not reproduce itself.
 
TREATMENT       

Can HIV/AIDS be treated?
While there is no cure for HIV/AIDS there is therapy, antiretrovirals (ARV). They function to slow down the weakening of the immune system by interfering with HIV replication within the body.
Effective therapy strives to:
Reduce viral load as much as possible for as long as possible.
Restore or preserve the immune system.
Improve the patient's quality of life.
Reduce sickness and death due to HIV infection.

ARVs
HIV medications fall into 4 classes with each affecting the HIV replication process differently. Each class of drugs has both risks and benefits. ARV drug classes are:
1. Entry Blockers
2. Nucleoside/Nucleotide Reverse Transcription Inhibitors and Non-Nucleoside Reverse Transcription Inhibitors
3. Integrase Inhibitors
4. Protease Inhibitors

Se how they work in this film, by clicking the link below (with courtesy of RATN and HEARD Organisation, Zambia): How ARVs Work

 
TRANSMISSION 

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is transmitted through behaviours/activities with an HIV infected person that allow for an exchange of certain body fluids. These fluids are:
* Blood
* Semen, including pre-seminal fluid (pre-cum)
* Vaginal Secretions
* Breast Milk
Of the four listed fluids, blood and semen have the highest concentrations of HIV, but each of the four can lead to infection.
You CANNOT get HIV from any animal or insect!
 
ACTIVITIES THAT PLACES ONE AT RISK OF HIV INFECTION

Are there any specific activities that place you at risk of becoming HIV infected?
It is most important to keep in mind that it's not who you are but what you DO that places you at risk of becoming HIV infected. Any activity becomes risky where there is an opportunity for the exchange of the four body fluids listed above. Therefore, the question one must ask before engaging in a particular activity is, "If I do this, is there a possibility that there will be an exchange of body fluid(s) - blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk?" If the answer is yes, that activity is risky and risk reduction strategies should be utilized.
Activities place one at risk of HIV exposure fall into three primary categories:
1. Unprotected Sexual Contact With an HIV Infected Person
This includes same sex and heterosexual activity
With respect to vaginal sex, there is an increased risk of transmission from male to female than female to male
Anal Sex – riskier for the receptive partner
2. Vertical Transmission (mother to child transmission)
HIV antibodies pass from HIV infected mother to child
In utero
During birthing process
Through breastfeeding
3. Sharing Needles/Syringes/Injection Equipment- IDU
This includes occupational exposure to sharps

HOW IS HIV NOT TRANSMITTED?
HIV is not spread through casual contact, such as
Kissing
Hugging
Shaking hands
Touching objects an HIV positive person has touched
Sleeping in the same bed (no sexual activity)
Eating from the same dish
Drinking from the same glass
Sitting next to an HIV positive person

HIV is a virus that only effects humans. You CANNOT get HIV from any animal or insect!