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HIV/AIDS

 Many of the symptoms of early stage HIV are the same vague symptoms of the flu. Although similar, certain symptoms distinguish themselves. As the virus attacks the immune system, the body responds by becoming more susceptible to infection. Some of the symptoms include swollen lymph nodes throughout the body and night sweats. Both the gastro-intestinal system and respiratory system are affected, and rapid weight loss and shortness of breath are common in early infection. Rashes and lesions on the skin are also early indicators of HIV infection. Emotional or neurological symptoms, including mood swings, depression and confusion, may appear in the early stages symptoms as well. Any of these symptoms are serious enough to cause concern.

While the AIDS virus is incurable, many advancements have occurred in technology and modern medicine that significantly extend the life of AIDS patients, as well as improve their quality of life. Early diagnosis is the key to the likelihood of a long and fruitful life. HIV and AIDS diagnosis is done using blood, saliva or cells from the inside of the cheek. The blood, saliva or cells are then tested for the presence of antibodies to the virus. Some tests are not accurate immediately because it can take up to six months for the body to start producing these antibodies. Nearly all HIV and AIDS testing is highly confidential.

About the HIV Vaccine

Although there are experimental vaccines or even drugs to minimize the impact of HIV on humans, there is not an HIV vaccine at this time. There are some experimental vaccines and trials that are currently running but there is nothing definitive.

HIV

HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, is a retrovirus, meaning that when it replicates, it inserts a DNA copy into the genome. HIV almost always leads to acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). AIDS decreases the body's natural immune system to such a degree that infections the body can normally fight, overcome it. People with AIDS generally die from a secondary disease because the HIV virus suppresses the immune system. HIV infection occurs through a multitude of ways. It is not an airborne virus, and it is not transmitted through saliva. Transmission occurs through blood, vaginal fluid, semen, pre-ejaculate and breast milk. Unprotected sexual intercourse is only one way to transmit it, though admittedly the most well-known way. Blood transfusions are also known to transfer the virus. Infants have also contracted HIV from their mothers.

Treatment

Although there is no cure, those with HIV are given a cocktail of antiretroviral drugs, called High Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) to treat HIV, depending on the stage of the virus. There is also antiviral hyperactivation limiting therapeutics (AV-HALTs) that combine immunomodulating and antiviral properties to decrease the disease's progression.

Although there is no miracle cure for AIDS or an approved vaccine for HIV, there are still choices. In fact, in January of 2012, the FDA approved clinical trials for a vaccine, SAV001. Depending on the trials, this vaccine could end HIV.

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