What is HIV AIDS?

HIV stands for Human Immuno-deficiency Virus. It is responsible for causing AIDS (Acquired Immuno Deficiency Syndrome) in humans. HIV belongs to the group of retrovirus. As this virus enters into the body, it starts destroying the cells of the immune system. In the meantime, the immune system tries to make new cells but gradually HIV destroys the capability of the body to fight infection and new cells formation. Without treatment, the immune system will become too weak to fight off illness and a person with HIV may develop rare infections or cancers. When these are particularly serious, the person is said to have AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).


History of HIV:

The history of the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) dates back to 1981, when homosexual men with symptoms of a disease that now are considered typical of AIDS were first described in Los Angeles and New York. The men had an unusual type of lung infection (pneumonia) called Pneumocystis carinii (now known as Pneumocystis jiroveci) pneumonia (PCP) and rare skin tumors called Kaposi’s sarcomas. The patients were noted to have a severe reduction in a type of cell in the blood (CD4 cells) that is an important part of the immune system. These cells, often referred to as T cells, help the body fight infections. Afterwards, this disease was recognized throughout the United States, Western Europe, and Africa. In 1983, researchers in the United States and France described the virus that causes AIDS, now known as HIV, belonging to the group of viruses called retroviruses.

The actual definition of AIDS is the development of a low CD4 cell count (<200 cells/mm3) or any one of a long list of complications of HIV infection ranging from a variety of so-called “opportunistic infections,” cancers, neurologic symptoms, and wasting syndromes.

How HIV is transmitted:
To become infected with HIV, infected blood, semen or vaginal secretions must enter your body. You can’t become infected through ordinary contact — hugging, kissing, dancing or shaking hands — with someone who has HIV or AIDS. HIV can’t be transmitted through the air, water or via insect bites.

You can become infected with HIV in several ways, including:

  • During sex. You may become infected if you have vaginal, anal or oral sex with an infected partner whose blood, semen or vaginal secretions enter your body. The virus can enter your body through mouth sores or small tears that sometimes develop in the rectum or vagina during sexual activity.
  • Blood transfusions. In some cases, the virus may be transmitted through blood transfusions. American hospitals and blood banks now screen the blood supply for HIV antibodies, so this risk is very small.
  • Sharing needles. HIV can be transmitted through needles and syringes contaminated with infected blood. Sharing intravenous drug paraphernalia puts you at high risk of HIV and other infectious diseases such as hepatitis.
  • From mother to child. Infected mothers can infect their babies during pregnancy or delivery, or through breast-feeding. But if women receive treatment for HIV infection during pregnancy, the risk to their babies is significantly reduced.

What are the risk factors of HIV?

When HIV/AIDS first surfaced in the United States, it predominantly affected homosexual men. The type of HIV found in many African nations is more easily spread through heterosexual sex. Anyone of any age, race, sex or sexual orientation can be infected, but one is at greatest risk of HIV/AIDS if one:

  • Have unprotected sex. Unprotected sex means having sex without using a new latex or polyurethane condom every time. Anal sex is more risky than is vaginal sex. The risk increases if you have multiple sexual partners.
  • Have another STD. Many sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) produce open sores on your genitals. HIV virus enters the blood stream through these sores.
  • Use intravenous drugs. People who use intravenous drugs often share needles and syringes. This exposes them to other people’s blood.
  • Are an uncircumcised man. Studies indicate that lack of circumcision increases the risk for heterosexual transmission of HIV.

 Occupational Transmission of HIV; Health Care Workers, Laboratory Workers, and the Health Care Setting:

There is a small but definite occupational risk of HIV transmission to health care workers and laboratory personnel and potentially others who work with HIV-containing materials, particularly when sharp objects are used. An estimated 600,000 to 800,000 health care workers are stuck with needles or other sharp medical instruments in the United States each year.

Exposures that place a health care worker at potential risk of HIV infection are percutaneous injuries (e.g., a needle stick or cut with a sharp object) or contact of mucous membrane or non intact skin (e.g., exposed skin that is chapped, abraded, or afflicted with dermatitis) with blood, tissue, or other potentially infectious body fluids. Large, multi-institutional studies have indicated that the risk of HIV transmission following skin puncture from a needle or a sharp object that was contaminated with blood from a person with documented HIV infection is 0.3% and after a mucous membrane exposure it is 0.09%.

What happens after an exposure to the blood or  secretions of an HIV-infected person?

The risk of HIV transmission occurring after any exposure to bodily fluids is poorly defined. The highest risk sexual activity is thought to be anal intercourse without a condom. In this case, the risk of infection may be as high as 3%-5% for each exposure. The risk is probably less for receptive vaginal intercourse without a condom and oral sex without a latex barrier. Despite the fact that no single sexual exposure carries a high risk of contagion, HIV infection can occur after even one sexual event. Thus, people must always be careful in protecting themselves from potential infection.

During all stages of infection, billions of HIV particles (copies) are produced every day and circulate in the blood. This production of virus is associated with a decrease in the number of CD4 cells in the blood over the coming years. It results from a direct effect of the virus on the cell as well as the body’s attempt to clear these infected cells from the system. In addition to virus in the blood, there is also virus throughout the body, especially in the lymph nodes, brain, and genital secretions.


What is the statistics of HIV/AIDS in the world?

HIV infection/AIDS is a global pandemic, with cases reported from virtually every country. At the end of 2009, an estimated 33.3 million individuals were living with HIV infection according to the Joint United Nations Programme on HIV/AIDS (UNAIDS). More than 95% of people living with HIV/AIDS reside in low- and middle-income countries of which 50% are female, and 2.5 million are children <15 years.

In 2009, there were an estimated 2.6 million new cases of HIV infection worldwide, including 370,000 in children <15 years. UNAIDS estimates that the global spread of HIV peaked in 1997, when 3.2 million new HIV infections occurred. In 2009, the estimated number of new HIV infections globally was approximately 21% lower than at the peak of the pandemic. Recent reductions in global HIV incidence likely reflect the results of prevention programs resulting in behavior change. In 2009, global AIDS deaths totaled 1.8 million (including 260,000 children <15 years). A rapid expansion of access to antiretroviral therapy likely has helped lower AIDS-related death rates in recent years.Since the beginning of the pandemic the cumulative total of AIDS deaths globally exceeds 25 million.

AIDS in United States:

As of January 1, 2010, an estimated 1,108,611 cases of AIDS had been diagnosed in the United States. Approximately 1.1 million individuals in the United States were living with HIV infection, 21 percent of whom are unaware of their infection, according to recent analysis. Approximately two-thirds of those living with HIV/AIDS were nonwhite and nearly half (48%) were men who have sex with men. The estimated HIV seroprevalence rate among individuals age 13 years or older in the United States is 0.5%.In 2009, the estimated number of diagnoses of HIV infection in the 40 states and 5 U.S. dependent areas with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting was 42,959. Of these, 42,011 were in the 40 states and 948 were in the 5 dependent areas. In the 40 states, diagnoses of HIV infection among adults and adolescents totaled 41,845 with 31,872 diagnoses in males and 9,973 diagnoses in females. Among children under age 13 years, there were an estimated 166 diagnoses of HIV infection in 2009.



Deaths of Persons with a Diagnosis of HIV Infection:

In 2008, the estimated number of deaths of persons with a diagnosis of HIV infection in the 40 states and 5 U.S. dependent areas with confidential name-based HIV infection reporting was 17,374. In the 40 states only, this included 16,762 adults and adolescents, and 7 children under age 13 years at death.

Since the beginning of the pandemic the cumulative total of AIDS deaths globally exceeds 25 million.

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