WHAT ARE HIV AND AIDS?
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. It is the
Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Usually a person has the virus for months or years before any signs of illness appear. It slowly
weakens the body's ability to fight off illness. People with AIDS can have serious infections and cancers. These illnesses
make them very sick and can eventually kill them.
HISTORY OF HIV/AIDS
About 401 cases of this new syndrome were reported in the U.S. The first working name for the epidemic was Gay Related
Immune Deficiency (GRID). At this stage, the scientific evidence was missing to identify the infectious agent and to verify
the transmission routes.
AZT was licensed by the FDA as the first drug to combat HIV
In November, Magic Johnson announced that he was infected with HIV.
A clinical trial on the use of AZT showed that prenatal HIV transmission from mother to child
could be greatly reduced.
The FDA offered preliminary approval to Saquinavir, the first
of a new class of antiretroviral drugs called protease inhibitors. Trials were instituted to test “cocktail” (combinations
of different classes of drugs) approaches to treatment.
The FDA recommended that blood
banks and plasma centers add a test for the p24 antigen. Oral fluid testing using EIA and Western Blot methods was approved
by the FDA.
Baton Rouge AIDS Society was founded
as the first minority AIDS Servicing Organization in the Greater Baton Rouge Area. As a Testing and Training Center,
BRASS has served over 3,000 people each year that it has been in operation.
COMMON MISPERCEPTIONS ABOUT HIV TRANSMISSION
Kissing! Because of the potential for contact with blood during “French” kissing, the CDC recommends
against engaging in this activity with a person known to be infected.
Saliva! Saliva, tears and sweat – HIV
has been found in saliva and tears in very low quantities from some AIDS patients. It is important to understand that finding
a small amount of HIV in a body fluid does not necessarily mean that HIV can be transmitted by that fluid.
Unlike yellow fever and malaria, HIV doesn’t live for long periods of time or reproduce inside the insect. Furthermore,
a mosquito does not inject its own or a previously bitten person’s blood when it bites someone.
Over time, HIV weakens the immune system by infecting and killing certain white blood cells. In the
latter stage of the virus, after the immune system is significantly weakened, people with HIV get one or more "opportunistic"
Magic Johnson has become an unofficial spokesman for this disease. A vigorous and healthy man living
with HIV, he got infected through heterosexual intercourse.
It often takes many, many years for somebody infected
with HIV to have their immune system weakened to the point where these opportunistic infections (and unusual cancers) can
occur. Once somebody begins to get these infections, they are said to have AIDS.
The disease was first defined
by the CDC (Centers for Disease Control & Prevention) in 1981. It is estimated that over a million Americans
are infected with HIV (one in every 250 people). Over 20 million people are infected worldwide. In some areas
of Africa, 1 out of every 2 people have HIV!
Early HIV diagnosis and entry into health care system have both individual
and societal benefits: improved health and productivity, reduced hospitalization costs, and decreased transmission from persons
who do not know their HIV status. First, those who learn of their infection can take steps to avoid infecting others.
Second, early treatment with new anti-viral medicines can slow the progression of the disease. Third, many of the opportunistic
diseases can be prevented before they occur by using antibiotics and other medicines.
Though excellent and continually
improving treatment is prolonging life and slowing the course of this disease, HIV infection is still considered to be nearly
100% fatal (even the Ebola virus isn't that vicious)!
How Does Someone Get HIV?
HIV spreads through blood, semen, vaginal fluids
or breast milk from infected people to uninfected people. People get HIV from contact with these fluids. Contact can come
from unsafe sex. It can also come from sharing used needles and syringes. Infected women can pass the virus to their babies
during pregnancy, childbirth and breast feeding. Some people who received blood products from 1978 to 1985 received infected
blood. Now blood banks test all blood for HIV before they use it.
People do not become infected with HIV through
everyday casual contact with people at school, work, home or anywhere else. The virus is not spread from contact with sweat,
tears, saliva, or a casual kiss from an infected person (deep, or "French" kissing is not advised). Nor can it be
contracted from contact with forks, cups, clothes, phones, toilet seats or other things used by someone who is infected with
HIV. People do not become infected from eating food made by an HIV-infected person. And to date, people have not become infected
with HIV through insect bites.
WHAT ARE SOME OF THE SYMPTOMS?
Flu-like symptoms (fever, chills, feeling lousy,
swollen glands, etc.). These symptoms go away, and most people have no idea they have this infection until they are diagnosed
with a blood test or they develop an opportunistic infection or unusual cancer.
The most common opportunistic
infections include, Candida albicans (caused by a fungus) throat and body infection, Pneumocystis carinii (caused by a bacteria)
pneumonia, Toxoplasmosis (caused by a fungus) brain infection, Cryptococcus (fungus) brain and body infection, Tuberculosis
(bacteria) lung and body infection, Cytomegalovirus (CMV, virus) eye and body infection. The most common cancer associated
with AIDS is called Kaposi's sarcoma. Many other infections (such as Herpes, HPV, Streptococcal pneumonia, and Salmonella)
occur in people with AIDS.
Coughing, shortness of breath, seizures, mental symptoms
such as confusion and forgetfulness, severe and persistent diarrhea, fever, vision loss, severe headaches, weight loss, extreme
fatigue, nausea, vomiting, lack of coordination, coma, abdominal cramps, difficult or painful swallowing, sore throat, swollen
lymph glands, mouth ulcers in the genital ulcers, headache, sweats, persistent or frequent yeast infections (oral or vaginal),
persistent skin rashes or flaky skin, pelvic inflammatory disease, severe herpes infections causing mouth, genital or anal
sores or a painful nerve disease.