The focus on HIV combination prevention, early detection and access to antiretroviral treatment has been identified as the key to end HIV transmission in coming years. To achieve these objectives, governments, health service providers, international organizations and common people come together on December 1st every year to celebrate World AIDS day and focus on the key facts about HIV and Aids.
It provides an opportunity to increase consciousness, education and a greater understanding of HIV as a global public health issue. As a part of the awareness program here are 10 key facts about HIV and Aids.
- There are two strains of HIV, HIV-1 and HIV-2. Within those stains, there are also several sub-strains. By far, the deadliest strain is HIV-1. Specifically when HIV-1 made the leap to humans may never be known. Most scientists agree that it was shortly before 1931 and likely a consequence of the tribal taste for chimp meat. It is believed that the earliest strains of HIV to infect humans were milder and sometimes stopped by the immune system.
- HIV/AIDS is feared so much more than other diseases due to its ability to bypass the immune system and then destroy it. When the virus enters the system, it is cloaked in carbohydrate sugar molecules that cling to its surface, which fool our bodies into thinking the virus is a nutrient.
- The virus can be transmitted through unprotected sex, transmission of infected blood, sharing infected needles and from a mother to her baby during pregnancy, childbirth, and breastfeeding. HIV, however, cannot be transmitted through sweat, saliva or urine. Read more about HIV myths here.
- AIDS is also known as advanced HIV infection or late-stage HIV. Someone with AIDS may develop other health conditions including pneumonia, thrush, fungal infections and cytomegalovirus. There is also an increased risk of developing other life-limiting conditions, including cancer and brain illnesses.
- In a few people, the T-cell decline and opportunistic infection that signal AIDS develop soon after infection with HIV. But most people do not develop symptoms for 10 to 12 years, and a few remain symptom-free for a great deal longer. As with the majority diseases, early medical care can help prolong a person’s life. This is one of the least known key facts about HIV and Aids.
- Women are twice more likely to contract HIV through vaginal sex with infected males than vice versa. This biological weakness is worsened by social and cultural factors that often challenge women’s ability to avoid sex with partners who are HIV-infected or to insist on condom use.
- HIV mutates quickly. Even among those who do well on HAART (highly active antiretroviral therapy), roughly half of patients experience treatment failure within a year or two, often because the virus develops resistance to existing drugs. As many as 10 to 20 percent of newly infected victims acquire viral strains that are already be resistant to current drugs.
- The first case of preventing mother to child transmission happened on March 3, 2013. Researchers announced that a baby born infected with HIV had been “functionally cured.” The child, born in Mississippi, was given high doses of antiretroviral drugs within 30 hours of being born. Two years later, doctors were unable to detect evidence of HIV in the child’s blood.
- The only way to know if you have HIV is to get tested. The HIV test is a simple blood test. After HIV enters the body, it may take time before the test can detect the virus (this is known as the window period). Different HIV tests have different window periods. Speak to a medical health professional about getting tested for HIV as well as other STIs and hepatitis C.
- HIV/AIDS continues to spread in the rest of the world, particularly in countries where poverty, inequality, and conflict are prevalent. Eastern Europe and Central Asia have the fastest rates of spread, followed by countries in Asia and the Pacific, the Caribbean, and Latin America.
If you want to know more key facts about HIV and Aids, do give this blog a read: What Are HIV and AIDS? How You Get It, Stages, Tests, and More