With the help of science, THANKFULLY, HIV and AIDS are not what it was back in the decade that preceded it. Yet, it is a horrible disease with no cure. With the help of proper medication, patients affected by HIV and AIDS are living longer and stronger, whereas the facts have changed. What the disease was back then is nothing that it is TODAY. Let’s find out more!

What is HIV?

HIV is a virus that damages the immune system. The immune system helps the body fight off infections. Untreated HIV infects and kills CD4 cells, which are a type of immune cell called T cells. Over time, as HIV kills more CD4 cells, the body is more likely to get various types of infections and cancers.

HIV is transmitted through bodily fluids that include – Blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids and breast milk.

What is AIDS?

AIDS is a disease that can develop in people with HIV. It’s the most advanced stage of HIV. But just because a person has HIV doesn’t mean they’ll develop AIDS. HIV kills CD4 cells. Healthy adults generally have a CD4 count of 500 to 1,500 per cubic millimeter. A person with HIV whose CD4 count falls below 200 per cubic millimeter will be diagnosed with AIDS. A person can also be diagnosed with AIDS if they have HIV and develop an opportunistic infection or cancer that’s rare in people who don’t have HIV. An opportunistic infection, such as pneumonia, is one that takes advantage of a unique situation, such as HIV.

Updated facts?

1)    Time

For Gen Xers, millennials, and the generations that follow, AIDS looks completely different than it did to those who were full-blown adults in the mid-80s. Case in point: If you were diagnosed in 1985, you almost certainly died, but if you were diagnosed in 1995, you may very well still be alive. This is because it took eight years from the identification of the virus for the first drug (AZT) to be approved, which was 1989. 

2)    People ARE aging

As people living with HIV are living longer, thanks to highly effective antiretroviral treatment, the overall population of persons living with the condition are aging. In a few years, it’s estimated that more than half of all people living with HIV will be over 50 years of age. Also, older people may not consider themselves to be at risk of HIV infection or may mistake HIV symptoms for those of normal aging. 

3)    HIV tests

There are different kinds of HIV tests, the HIV antibody test and the HIV antibody/antigen combination test, each with its own testing window and detection method. Basically, the body has to develop an immune response to the virus before the tests can work. The HIV antibody test is a blood test that searches a blood sample for antibodies that were created by the immune system in response to HIV. It can take three to 12 weeks for your body to produce enough antibodies for the HIV virus to get an accurate test result. The HIV antibody/antigen test, on the other hand, can detect antibodies plus parts of the actual virus called antigens, so this combination test is able to reveal HIV earlier. 

4)    The treatment

In the past, taking a cocktail of drugs required regimens consisting of many pills, multiple times a day, and these regimens were associated with many side effects including chronic diarrhea, nausea, redistribution of body fat, increase in cholesterol levels, dizziness, vivid dreams, depression, etc. Now, we have multiple regimen combinations that are very potent and produce minimal, if any, side effects. Today’s AIDS patients can get all the meds they need in a convenient, one-pill-a-day regimen.

5)    If recently exposed, IT CAN BE TREATED IMMEDIATELY 

It might sound like miracle work, but there is an antiretroviral treatment cocktail that, if ingested and continued to be taken within the first 72 hours of exposure, can significantly reduce an individual’s risk of acquiring HIV. This type of medical HIV prevention is called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) and must be taken for 28 days to be fully effective.

6)    HIV + to HIV + organ transplantation 

It’s no surprise that there’s a severe shortage in this country of organ donors. It’s a dire situation even if you have a clean bill of health. Those HIV+ recipients in need of organ transplantation (e.g. liver or kidney) are often less prioritized than those without HIV. To fill this gap, the HOPE Act was signed into law allowing HIV+ organs to be transplanted into HIV+ recipients given the success of treatment regimens for HIV. 

Which of these facts were you aware off?