Posted by Suman Radhakrishna
December is AIDS awareness month. Great strides have been made towards research, prevention, and advancing treatment options for those affected with the disease. Early this year, the US government announced its goal to reduce new HIV infections by 75% in the next five years and achieve at least 90% reduction over 10 years.1
What is AIDS?
AIDS is caused by Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) which weakens the immune system and makes the body prone to infections and other diseases. Transmission of HIV occurs when you come in contact with bodily fluids of an infected person such as blood, semen (cum) and pre-seminal fluid, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
AIDS by the Numbers
According to World Health Organization (WHO), AIDS has claimed over 32 million lives around the world and an estimated 37.9 million were living with the disease as of 2018.2 Over 1 million people in the United States have AIDS and 1 in 7 living with the infection are unaware of it.3 The first AIDS case was reported in the 1980’s in the United States.
Advances in Prevention
Safe sex practice combined with once daily combination tablet has reduced the transmission of HIV. Infected individuals on effective HIV treatment with undetectable virus do not transmit the virus to susceptible individuals.
Advances in HIV Treatment
While there is no cure for AIDS yet, several clinical studies are working on new and safe medical treatments for those affected by the disease. Advances in HIV treatment have resulted in near-normal quality of life for HIV-infected individuals.
- There are several single-tablet combination therapies available which can be tailored to individual needs. Patients who take their medications as prescribed and achieve undetectable viral loads are unlikely to infect other individuals. This is a big step in halting the spread of the disease to susceptible individuals.
- Single daily-dosing and single pill-combination therapies have made treatment regimens easier without interfering with work and personal lives of infected patients.
- Monthly injection of antiretrovirals is a novel method of delivering medications to individuals.
- Skin lesions associated with Kaposi sarcoma—a type of cancer common among people living with HIV—are uncommon. Effective HIV treatment has also helped to curb the number of Kaposi sarcoma cases.
- Lipodystrophy—a disease common among people with HIV and causes abnormal distribution of fat in the body—is also less common.
In combination with the therapies, exercise and monitoring diet and nutrition can help control weight gain. Moreover, increased awareness and education of the general public regarding the mode of transmission of HIV has further helped reduce social ostracization of infected individuals.
1HIV.gov. What is ‘Ending the HIV Epidemic: A Plan for America’? Retrieved https://www.hiv.gov/federal-response/ending-the-hiv-epidemic/overview
2World Health Organization. HIV/AIDS. Retrieved from https://www.who.int/en/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids
3HIV.gov. Fast Facts. Retrieved from https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/statistics
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