Health and Human Resources – General Resources Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
- HIV attacks CD4, a type of White Blood Cell (T cells) in the body’s immune system. T cells are those cells that move around the body detecting anomalies and infections in cells.
- After entering body, HIV multiplies itself and destroys CD4 cells, thus severely damaging the human immune system. Once this virus enters the body, it can never be removed.
- CD4 count of a person infected with HIV reduces significantly. In a healthy body, CD4 count is between 500- 1600, but in an infected body, it can go as low as 200.
- Weak immune system makes a person prone to opportunistic infections and cancer. It becomes difficult for a person infected with this virus to recover from even a minor injury or sickness.
- By receiving treatment, severe form of HIV can be prevented.
- HIV is transmitted from person to person through bodily fluids including blood, semen, vaginal secretions, anal fluids and breast milk.
- To transmit HIV, bodily fluids must contain enough of the virus. A person with ‘Undetectable HIV’ cannot transfer HIV to another person even after transfer of fluids.
- ‘Undetectable HIV’ is when the amount of HIV in the body is so low that a blood test cannot detect it. Treatment can make this possible. But regular monitoring of the same through blood tests is also required.
Around 80% of people infected with HIV develop a set of symptoms known as Acute Retroviral Syndrome, around 2-6 weeks after the virus enters into body.
The early symptoms include fever, chills, joint pains, muscle aches, sore throat, sweats particularly at night, enlarged glands, a red rash, tiredness, weakness, unintentional weight loss and thrush.
A person can carry HIV even without experiencing any symptoms for a long time. During this time, the virus continues to develop and causes immune system and organ damage.
Since the beginning of epidemic, more than 70 million people have got infected with HIV virus and about 35 million have died.
Globally, 36.9 million People were living with HIV at the end of 2017. Of these, 1.8 million were children under 15 years of age.
According to Global HIV & AIDS statistics, only 59% of those infected with HIV are receiving the antiretroviral drugs.
The African Region is the most affected region with 1 in 25 adults living with HIV.
The total number of people living with HIV was estimated at 21.40 lakh in 2017.
India witnessed over 87,000 new cases in 2017 and saw a decline of 85% compared to 1995.
- It is a combination of daily medications that stop the virus from reproducing.
- The therapy helps in protecting CD4 cells thus keeping the immune system strong enough to fight off the disease.
- It, besides reducing the risk of transmission of HIV, also helps in stopping its progression to AIDS (a spectrum of conditions caused by infection due to HIV).
Stem Cell Transplant:
- Under this, an infected person is treated with stem cell transplant from donors carrying a genetic mutation that prevents expression of an HIV receptor CCR5.
- CCR5 is the most commonly used receptor by HIV-1. People who have mutated copies of CCR5 are resistant to HIV-1 virus strain.
- It has been reported that till now, only two people have been cured of HIV by experts using this method of treatment. The first person is Timothy Ray Brown (Berlin Patient) who was cured in 2007 and the second is known as London Patient, who just got cured of HIV.
- The difference in the treatment of both patients is that the Berlin Patient was given two transplants and he underwent total body irradiation while the London Patient received just one transplant and also less intensive chemotherapy.
- Researchers find this method very complicated, expensive and risky.
Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS)
- It is a set of symptoms or syndrome caused by HIV. But it is not necessary that a person infected with HIV will definitely develop AIDS.
- A person infected with HIV is likely to develop symptoms of AIDS over a period of time when his/er immune system is too weak to fight HIV infection.
- This is the last stage of HIV when the infection is very advanced and if left untreated will lead to death.
- A person with HIV whose CD4 count falls below 200 per cubic millimetre is diagnosed with AIDS.
- The risk of HIV progressing to AIDS varies widely between individuals and depends on many factors including:
- The age of the Individual
- The body’s ability to defend against HIV
- Access to high quality sanitary healthcare
- Presence of other infections
- Individual’s genetic resistance to certain strains of HIV
- Drug-Resistant strains of HIV
- Prevention includes safe sex, testing and counselling for HIV, voluntary medical male circumcision among other things.