HIV: how to live in a world where it is

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HIV: how to live in a world where it is

At the words of HIV and AIDS, images of syringes with blood appear, and it seems that the infected need urgently to be isolated. With timely competent therapy, it is not so: we tell how to protect yourself.

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How our immunity works

According to its structure, the human body is similar to a corporation with a huge staff of employees of various profiles. Organs, tissues, and cells in them are quite different, and at the same time, they all work together smoothly.

One of the basic principles of the existence of a living organism is dynamic equilibrium. This is when everything is constantly changing, but in general remains as before. The human immune system in this context combines the functions of controlling everything that comes from outside and unexpected events in the work of the body's own cells.

Failure in all phases of the immune system makes a person vulnerable. People may suffer from overreaction to innocuous external stimuli (allergies), and also from insufficient protection from external (diseases, pathogens) or internal (malignant neoplasms) breakdowns. It becomes especially difficult when not a separate section is “hacked”, but the system as a whole.


What are HIV and AIDS

HIV, the human immunodeficiency virus, infects the cells of the immune system, which are responsible for protecting the body against external infections of any nature (lymphocytes). An HIV-infected person becomes a carrier of the virus for life. If adequate treatment is not promptly started, HIV will destroy the target cells further, making the body more susceptible to external infections.

Three stages of HIV development

The first is the acute stage of HIV infection. 2–4 weeks after infection, the person develops cold symptoms that last for several weeks. For someone, this stage can even be asymptomatic, but at this stage, the blood contains the greatest number of viral particles, and the person is very contagious. In order to unambiguously determine HIV status, it is necessary to pass an analysis (about this - below).

The second stage is the latent period when the infection becomes chronic. The condition worsens over time, but there may be no acute manifestations. Without treatment, the condition of a person remains stable for about ten years, and during the course of therapy, it lasts much longer (tens of years). People with HIV infection in the latent stage are still contagious, but treatment significantly reduces the number of viral particles in the blood, and the probability of transmission of the virus is reduced. With a significant decrease in the number of lymphocytes, this stage ends, and AIDS begins - the terminal stage.

AIDS is an acquired immunodeficiency syndrome. At the AIDS stage, the immune system is so depleted that a person can suffer from opportunistic infectious agents that are safe for a healthy person. Depletion is primarily characterized by a drop in the number of special lymphocytes that are targets of HIV. Normally, a milliliter of blood contains from 500 to 1600 lymphocytes, while with AIDS this number drops below 200 cells per milliliter.

HIV does not turn into AIDS at all, and therapy can reduce the likelihood of a worsening condition. The treatment methods available today can significantly reduce the mortality rate of the disease, but the rate of spread of the infection is frightening.

How not to get HIV

The virus is transmitted with blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, rectal and vaginal fluids, as well as through breast milk, this determines the possible modes of transmission. With careful and attentive interaction with others, you can avoid infection.

Typical ways of contracting HIV (arranged in decreasing order of probability of transmission):

  • different types of sexual intercourse without a condom (including with an HIV-positive partner who is not undergoing treatment);

  • reuse of the same syringes/needles by different people;

  • from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth or lactation (timely initiation of therapy significantly reduces the risk of transmitting HIV to the child);

  • a wound or cut caused by an object in contact with the body fluids of HIV-infected people (more likely for medical professionals);

  • blood transfusions or organ transplants from people with HIV infection (the risk is significantly reduced by careful testing of donor material for HIV content);

  • bite to HIV-infected (“before blood”);

  • contact of mucous, open wounds, skin cracks with body fluids containing HIV (with care for visitors to questionable body piercing, tattoo and beauty salons, as well as dental facilities);

  • food from a single plate with an HIV-infected person or passionate kisses - only if, because of this, a partner can receive the blood of an HIV-infected person. HIV is not transmitted through saliva!
At the same time, even if you do not do this, the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends that people from 13 to 64 years of age regularly take an HIV test.

How and when to take tests

Knowing your own HIV status is very important. Testing for HIV should not be taken as a reason to divide people into “clean” and “infected”. In this case, knowledge is a responsible attitude towards one’s health and the health of one’s partners and loved ones. In fact, any analysis result is useful:

  1.  If HIV-positive status is confirmed, you will be able to quickly plan a method of treatment and, possibly, save your partner from the disease.

2.  If your HIV status is confirmed, you should continue to look after yourself to prevent getting infected with HIV.

HIV testing is not mandatory, it is a personal decision of everyone. In Russia, only blood from a vein is taken for analysis, which must be given on an empty stomach (not earlier than 8 hours after a meal). You may be assigned two analyzes.

The first is an enzyme immunoassay when they catch antibodies produced by the immune system to the virus 3–6 months after infection. The second is a PCR analysis when virus particles circulating in the blood are caught after two to three weeks from the moment of potential infection.


Where can I be examined

You can get tested for HIV at the dermatovenerologic dispensary, at the AIDS center, at a public medical facility, at a commercial clinic, or at a clinical laboratory. In public institutions, analyzes are carried out free of charge according to indications and for a fee - as a matter of urgency. In AIDS centers, analyzes are free and anonymous (for example, a map of AIDS centers in Moscow ). Consumer test systems for HIV are sold in pharmacies, but their cost is comparable to analysis in a private laboratory, anonymity is not guaranteed, and the probability of error is higher than with laboratory methods.

What do the test results mean

People with a negative HIV test do not need additional consultation. A positive result indicates the presence of specific antibodies in the patient’s blood. If the result is positive, you may be offered another analysis method to confirm the results. If the results do not match, the analysis should be repeated (for example, by PCR) in order to obtain a certain status. When confirming HIV infection, you should immediately contact a doctor at the AIDS Center (Center for the Prevention and Control of AIDS and Infectious Diseases).

HIV causes a serious disease of the immune system, in which any infection can become a threat to life, so it is important to be aware of one's own HIV status and to be responsible for the health of loved ones. Timely therapy helps the immune system to gain control of the virus and significantly extend a healthy state.

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