29 Jul 2011

Details On HIV | AIDS

 What is HIV?
"HIV" stands for Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
Many persons also refer to HIV as the "AIDS virus.”

How is the virus Transmitted?

HIV lives in blood and other body fluids that hold blood or white blood cells. People have gotten HIV throughout:
• Unprotected sexual interaction with an HIV-infected human being. This includes vaginal or anal interaction, and by word of mouth sex on a man or woman without a condom or other barrier. association while a woman is having her period, or during outbreaks of genital sores or lesions (caused by herpes and other sexually transmitted diseases) can increase the risk of HIV transmission.
• sharing drug injection equipment (needles and/or works); or being accidentally stuck by needles or sharp objects contaminated with infected blood.
• infected blood used in transfusions, and infected blood products used in the treatment of certain diseases and disorders (like hemophilia), before March 1985. (Since 1985, federally mandated screening of the blood supply has reduced the risk of transmission through this route to 1 in 255, 000.)
• pregnancy, childbirth, and/or breastfeeding, where the virus is passed from mother to child.
• transplanted organs from infected donors. (Routine screening of organ donors also began in 1985.)
HIV and AIDS are not transmitted through casual contact (that is, where no blood or body fluids are involved). HIV is what gets passed from person to person. People don't "catch AIDS"; they "become infected with HIV. "

How do you prevent infection with HIV?
HIV in sufficient amounts to cause infection exists in blood, semen, vaginal fluid, and breast milk. You can prevent infection with HIV by making sure that these fluids from an HIV-infected man or woman don't have a chance to enter your body. The best ways to be sure are to practice safer sex by using condoms and to refuse to share drug-injection equipment with anyone.
• Use a latex condom every time you have sex.

If you have vaginal or anal sex, use a latex condom. Use a condom or a dental dam (a square of latex) if you have oral sex. A condom will keep the virus, which can be found in semen or vaginal fluids, from getting into your body. Always use a latex condom; lambskin condoms don't protect you from HIV. Always use a water-based lubricant, such as K-Y Jelly or Foreplay. Oil-based lubricants, like vegetable oil, hand lotion, or petroleum jelly (Vaseline), can make the condom break. It is best to use a lubricant that does not contain the spermicide nonoxynol-9. Research shows that nonoxynol-9 does not protect against HIV, and in fact, may cause irritation that can make it easier for HIV to be transmitted. For more information on nonoxynol-9, see this factsheet, created by the Global Campaign for Microbicides(see“global-campaign.org/index.htm”). Also, remember that many kinds of sex won't put you at risk for HIV infection. Try massage, masturbation (with a partner or alone), foreplay, phone sex, or kissing.

• Always use a sterile syringe.
If you use a syringe or needle for any reason, the best way to protect yourself from contracting HIV is to ALWAYS use a sterile syringe and needle and to never share them with anyone. Remember that cookers and cotton can also have HIV in them, so do not share them with anyone either.

What does an "HIV-positive" test result mean?
A positive test result means your body has been infected by the human immunodeficiency virus - and that you are capable of transmitting it to others. The test did not look for the actual virus itself, but found evidence of it in your blood. There's no way to tell from this result who gave you the virus, how long you've had it, or when it will begin to affect your health. You may see or hear the results called "HIV-positive, " "HIV+, " "HIV-antibody positive, " or "seropositive for HIV. " These terms all mean the same thing. People who have been infected with the human immunodeficiency virus are said to have "HIV disease. " While the virus itself is not a disease, it progressively damages the body's immune system. This puts you at risk for developing illnesses you wouldn't otherwise get.
At this time, doctors don't know of any way to rid the body of HIV. There is no cure. Once you've been infected, you have it for life.

How does HIV harm the body?
Viruses tend to be specialists. They zero in on a few particular types of cells in the body and move in. The human immunodeficiency virus is best known for targeting the T cells of the immune system. However, it can also attack cells of the brain, nervous system, digestive system, lymphatic system, and other parts of the body.
The immune system is made up of specialized cells in the bloodstream that fight off invading germs to keep the body healthy. The "T" cells (also referred to as "T4,” "helper-T, " or "CD4" cells) are the brains of the operation. These white blood cells identify invaders and give orders to soldier-type cells, which then battle various bacteria, viruses, cancers, fungi, and parasites that can make a person sick.
Like all viruses, HIV is only concerned in one thing: Reproducing itself. Once it has attacked and moved into a T cell, it converts that cell into a miniature virus factory. Eventually there are so many new viruses in the cell that the T cell explodes, scattering the HIV back into the bloodstream. The virus then moves on to fresh T cells and repeats the process. Over time, HIV can destroy virtually all of an infected person's T cells in this manner.
With fewer and fewer "leaders" to rely on for warnings, the "soldier" cells become powerless. They can no longer recognize and fight off common organisms that would not present a problem to a healthy immune system. These organisms may be lying dormant in the body already, or may enter from outside. The immune system's weakness gives them the opportunity to wake up, multiply, and cause illness. Thus, we call these illnesses "opportunistic infections. " People with fully functioning immune systems are almost never troubled by these particular infections -- but those with damaged immune systems are highly vulnerable to them.

So what's the connection between HIV and AIDS?
When a person with an HIV-weakened immune system comes down with one or more of these rare opportunistic infections, or has a T cell count below 200 or 14%, that person may be diagnosed by a doctor as having AIDS. "AIDS" stands for "Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. " The "syndrome" part means that AIDS is not a single disease but a collection of diseases. The Centers for Disease Control (CDC) has put together a list of 26 "AIDS-defining illnesses" in adults. Diagnosis of Aids in children involves a list of slightly different ailments.
AIDS can be thought of as the most severe form of HIV disease. HIV is the primary agent that leads to the development of AIDS.
Importantly, though, not all people with HIV have AIDS. In fact, statistics from 2000 report that only about 32% of the estimated one million people in the U. S. Now infected with HIV have progressed to that stage of the disease. It is not yet known whether everyone living with HIV will go on to develop AIDS, or if HIV is the only factor that causes it. AIDS is only a small part of the total HIV picture; many experts describe it as "the tip of the iceberg. "

How much time do i have before I get sick?
One of the most important determining factors in whether or not a person will get sick largely depends on how soon in the disease progression they seek medical care. But, everyone with HIV will have a different experience. Those who do not receive drug therapy will increase their chances of becoming ill. A few men and women won't have any HIV-related symptoms at all. They may only come down with an AIDS-defining illness years down the road when their T cells are almost gone -- if ever. Others will face a continuing series of non-life-threatening symptoms (rashes, fungal infections, diarrhea) as the virus gradually weakens their immune system.
Based on past experience, most people who test positive for HIV will likely fall somewhere in between these two illness extremes. They can expect to have a few symptoms here and there over a number of years before being diagnosed with "frank" (or "full-blown" or "classic") AIDS. Symptoms won't show up on any set schedule or in any particular order.
Experts now say the average length of time between infection with the virus and diagnosis of the first serious AIDS-related illness is 10-15 years. Though no one knows exactly why, a large percentage of women, infants, and the elderly seem to become ill sooner.
However, keep in mind that these "predictions" apply to the group of HIV-infected people as a whole. You as an individual may have a very different outlook. A lot can depend on your general state of health at the time you got the virus, how long you've had it -- and how aggressively you decide to fight it now. Only time will tell what your own experience will be.

What if I previously have AIDS?
If you've already been diagnosed with AIDS, you may be sick now, but that doesn't mean you'll stay sick. With proper treatment, opportunistic infections can clear up and you could feel fine again (although you will, medically speaking, still have AIDS). Average life expectancy for people with AIDS varies widely. There are people who have lived with the disease for 20 years or more.
The key thing to remember is, an HIV-positive test result or diagnosis of AIDS is not an automatic, immediate "death sentence. " There are drugs and other preventive measures you can take to help increase your chances for staying well. With good medical care and a positive mental attitude, you can "survive and thrive" for years to come.

Doesn't AIDS kill you?
While the virus itself does not cause death, the opportunistic infections it allows are often lethal. Without therapy, the HIV virus is nearly 100% fatal.
In the past several years, however, critical advances in knowledge, drugs, and treatment philosophies have had a great impact on the life expectancy of HIV-positive individuals. Today, hundreds of thousands of HIV-positive men and women live long and productive lives thanks to new therapy regimens. But it is important to note that there is no cure for HIV. HIV therapies can be expensive and difficult to take, often resulting in severe, and in some cases, debilitating side effects. Not everyone benefits from HIV therapy. While there remains hope for people living with HIV, it is critical for every person, HIV-positive or negative, to practice prevention. For more information on national treatment guidelines, please see this “aidsinfo.nih.gov/”.

What symptoms or illnesses must i be inspection out for?
As mentioned, the CDC has drawn up a specific list of AIDS-defining illnesses. Doctors use this list to make a diagnosis of Aids in their HIV-infected patients who become ill.
The most common AIDS-related illness is pneumocystis carinii pneumonia ("PCP, " for short). The first symptoms to look out for are a dry cough and unusual shortness of breath. The bad news about PCP is that it's one of the most deadly diseases you'll be likely to face. The good news is, it often can be prevented. Your doctor can prescribe medication to be used on a regular basis. This is known as "prophylactic treatment. "
Kaposi's sarcoma (or "KS") is a cancer-like illness that occurs mainly in gay men. Those who get it may notice pink, brown, or purplish spots or lesions on their skin, or in their nose or mouth. KS can also show up internally. The external lesions can often be successfully removed, and the disease is treatable with radiation and chemotherapy.
There are 24 other AIDS-defining illnesses and conditions on the CDC list. You can ask your doctor to tell you more about them. Only a licensed medical practitioner is qualified to make a diagnosis of AIDS.
In general, if you notice any of the following symptoms in an extreme, chronic, or unexplainable form, it may signal an HIV- or AIDS-related condition:
1.       Night sweats or fever
2.       Cough, shortness of breath, tightness or pressure in the chest
3.       Loss of appetite
4.       Fatigue
5.       Weight loss
6.       Diarrhea
7.       Pain or difficulty swallowing
8.       Headaches
9.       Confusion or forgetfulness
10.     Change in vision
11.     Swollen glands
12.     Sores or whitish patches in the mouth
13.     Specific women's health problems, such as pelvic inflammatory disease, chronic yeast infections, and cervical abnormalities
14.     Any new skin condition (rash, hives, lump, lesion, sore, spot, or growth).
The key words to remember here are "extreme, " "chronic" (meaning it won't go away), and "unexplainable. " Every symptom on the list could just as easily apply to some other condition that may have nothing to do with HIV or AIDS. A person with one or more of those symptoms could have a plain old touch of the flu, just like anyone else. Try to resist the temptation to panic at every little twinge or "blah" day; it doesn't necessarily mean you now have AIDS, or that the end is near. If there's any doubt in your mind, ask your doctor.

What if I'm significant or enclose children?
If you are a mother or about to become one, you may feel an additional burden in response to the news that you're HIV-positive. It's natural for your mind to race through terrible questions: Are my children infected? If they are, will i see them die? What will happen to them if i die first? What will they think of me? How can i forgive myself if they contracted HIV through me? Facing your own illness may seem easy next to the specter of watching your children suffer or die.
To ease your mind of these worries, you'll want to gather lots of information. If you're pregnant now, decide whether you want to proceed with the pregnancy. If the answer is yes, learn what steps can be taken to help protect your health and the baby's. Don't assume any child born to you will be HIV-positive. The chances of delivering a baby with HIV can be as low as 1 in 12 when preventive measures are taken. As a mother or mother-to-be, it's more important than ever to seek out early medical care.
Recent clinical trials have shown that AZT (an antiviral medication) can reduce the risk of HIV transmission from mother to child more than threefold when the drug is administered to the mother during the pregnancy and delivery, and to the newborn during the first six weeks of life. If you are pregnant, the opportunity to decrease the chance that your baby will develop HIV infection is an important consideration as you examine your options. However, the decision to undergo this treatment or any other is yours alone. Get as much information as you can, and follow the course of action you feel most comfortable with.

What is Nonoxynol-9 and can it prevent HIV?
Nonoxynol-9 (N-9) (“archive.aidschicago.org/prevention/n9education.php”) is a detergent found in products sold over the counter as contraceptive spermicides. Condoms with added "spermicide" contain N-9, a chemical additive that, in addition to killing sperm, can erode the internal surfaces of the body, causing irritation and urinary tract infections. This can increase the risk of HIV infection during both vaginal and anal sex.
“archive.aidschicago.org/prevention/n9education.php” for more information.

What are microbicides?
Microbicides are anti-HIV ingredients that could be added to gels, foams, and creams that would be used during vaginal and/or rectal intercourse to reduce the risk of HIV infection. Microbicides could be used with condoms or alone, in situations where individuals will not or cannot negotiate condom usage with their partner. In these situations, individuals need the ability to have protection against HIV without a partner's knowledge. Currently, almost 30 possible microbicides have been developed and are in the research pipeline, but additional funding is needed to ensure these important HIV prevention tools become available worldwide. For more info see “archive.aidschicago.org/prevention/microbicides.php”

Anything in addition I need to keep track of?
Once you get established with a doctor, you will undergo periodic tests to monitor the number of T cells remaining in your blood. This "T cell count" or "CD4 count" will give you and your doctor an idea of how fast and far your disease is progressing, and help you decide when to schedule various treatments.
As a rule, an adult with a healthy immune system would expect to have a T cell count between 800 and 1500. An HIV-infected person with a T cell count of 500 might want to think about starting combination therapy to slow down the virus. People with counts below 200 usually are advised to add preventive treatments for PCP and other infections. You and your doctor can discuss these and other treatments together and decide which ones are best for you to try.
Keep in mind that T cell counts are neither exact nor unchanging. Your T cells may go up and down over time in response to pregnancy, an illness, a new medication, or many other factors. Counts may also vary considerably from day to day or at different times of day. Not everyone experiences a steady downward decline. Ultimately, the approximate number of T cells you have at any given time is much less important than your general state of health. You may have 400 T cells and feel lousy, or 10 T cells and feel great. Try not to let an unexpected or disappointing test result shake you up too much.

Where can i get more information?
The best place to go for advice about living with HIV is your own doctor. However, if she or he is not an HIV specialist, you both may benefit from further reading or consultation. (Besides, no one person -- your doctor included -- can be expected to know everything. )#) There are many excellent information sources and publications available free or at low cost from around the country. Please review our links(“archive.aidschicago.org/links/index.php”) document for a listing of other online resources. You may also call the state of Illinois HIV/AIDS and STD Hotline at 1-800-AID-AIDS for more information on AIDS and for referrals to testing and other services.
The point is, no matter where you are, you needn't feel isolated. Today's technology allows people living in small towns and rural areas access to the same high-quality information and support available in large urban areas. Let the big city come to you!
See for more info “archive.aidschicago.org”.

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