[I had posted this on my medium account some time ago but I felt it would only be right to put it up on here so more people get informed. So here goes…]
For some time now, I have been working at an Infectious Diseases Institute, particularly with the HIV/AIDS program and on this particular day, a young man walks up to me with these questions
Young Man: Please is this the clinic where people with HIV are treated
Me: Yes, it is!
Young Man: So, this is where they quarantine them to treat them?
At this stage, I paused…’quarantine’? It was at that moment i realized that he knew close to nothing about HIV and it’s treatment and this is the case with most people hence this post.
HIV (Human Immunodeficiency Virus) is a virus that attacks the immune system. It destroys the white blood cells till it gradually breaks down a person’s immune cells. These white blood cells are called T-helper cells or CD4. If left untreated, the immune system gradually becomes severely damaged. However the speed of progression of HIV is dependent on age, health and background.
Globally, as at 2016, about 36.7 million people were diagnosed to be living with HIV, with more people getting infected daily and while there is no cure for it yet, the good news is that there is effective Antiretroviral therapy (ART) available so People Living with HIV (PLHIV) can live normal and healthy lives. For pregnant women living with HIV,there are measures in places to eliminate the risk of Mother to Child transmission provided the mother starts treatment early enough.
One of the goals of treatment of HIV is to ensure that the patient has a good quality of life. What this means in medical terms is that the patient has a higher CD4 count and the lowest possible viral load.
AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome), on the other hand is not a virus but a set of symptoms caused by the HIV. A person is said to have AIDS when their immune system is too weak to fight off infections and they develop certain defining symptoms and illnesses. This is the last stage of HIV and if left untreated, will lead to death.
Modes of transmission
- Unprotected Sex with infected persons
- Sharing sharp objects
- Contaminated blood transfusions and organ transplants
- Mother to Child transmission
- Contact with infected body fluids like blood, semen, breast milk, vaginal and anal fluids.
Please note that you DO NOT get HIV from hugging infected persons or from any physical contact, from toilet seats, sweat, insect bites, saliva or bathing. HIV is not airborne and as such a quarantine is not necessary.
What to do
- Know your status. Get tested and ensure that if you have a sexual partner, you know their status also. This is to enable early detection, and for thus early treatment.
- If you test positive, find the nearest ARV clinic to start treatment immediately. You can live a normal and healthy life as long as you take your medication as at when due. There are a number of centers in countries around the world that provide antiretroviral medications at no cost to the patient. So, find one closest to you and get enrolled for treatment.
- In the case of an accidental contact with a possibly contaminated sharp object, or unprotected sex or sexual assault, visit the nearest hospital for Post-Exposure Prophylaxis within the first 72hours of exposure especially when you are not sure or do not know the HIV status of the other party involved.
Please feel free to ask any questions you may have about HIV or go to the nearest HIV Centre to you for more enquiries. You can also visit the CDC website for more information.