A report from the HIM-HER-IT reports that 37.7 million people lived with HIV worldwide in 2020 and at least 1.5 million contracted the virus that year. 53% of people with the virus are women and girls.
These data dimension the global panorama. Therefore, here we show you several information that you should know:
What is HIV and what is AIDS?
The human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that attacks the body’s immune system. If left untreated, it can cause AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome), the most aggressive phase of infection.
When were the first cases known?
In June 1981, several American epidemiologists reported five cases of a rare form of pneumonia in gay men in California, some of whom died. In others, unusual versions of skin cancer were identified.
Doctors at that time registered “opportunistic infections” among injecting drug users at the end of that year and in hemophiliacs and Haitian residents in the United States in mid-1982, the year in which the name Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome (AIDS) appears for first time.
How is it transmitted?
HIV can be transmitted through sexual intercourse, sharing needles to inject drugs or tattooing, or from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.
HIV is not transmitted through the air or water, or through saliva, sweat, tears, or closed-mouth kisses, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Neither by insects or pets, nor by sharing the toilet, food or drinks.
Who should be tested?
Ideally, all adults should be tested for HIV at least once a year. If you are at risk, that is, if you have frequent sex with several people, inject some type of drug or think you are exposed, you should have the test more times. Keep in mind that anyone can be infected.
Antibodies can take between three and four weeks to be detected, that is, during this time, also called the ‘window period’, the tests can be negative.
Eye: HIV is not the only thing you are exposed to; Ask your doctor for tests for other STDs when you get your annual checkup.
How can you protect yourself?
The CDC recommends using condoms the right way every time you have anal or vaginal sex. In addition, they suggest choosing activities that involve little or no risk, such as oral sex.
If you inject drugs, do not share needles or syringes. Always check that, when you are going to tattoo or do any treatment such as acupuncture, the needles are new and not reused.
What symptoms are there?
According to the CDC, some people can have some flu-like symptoms and usually appear two to four weeks after infection, such as fever, chills, rashes, muscle aches, sore throats, fatigue, ulcers in the mouth and swollen glands. This is known as acute HIV infection. But this is not the generality. Symptoms can be mild and not noticeable.
In a next stage, known as latent clinical infection, HIV is present in the body, but reproduces at very low levels. This stage can last several years if antiretroviral therapy is not received, according to the Mayo Clinic.
Over time, the virus can increase its ability to multiply and destroy immune cells, the cells in the body that help fight germs. At this point, the third stage or AIDS appears, where there is serious damage to the immune system. Then diseases like cancer could appear.
Is there treatment?
Yes. Although there is no cure, there are treatments to reduce the amount of viruses in the body. This is called antiretroviral therapy (ART). As the CDC describes, most people get the virus under control within six months.
For prevention, medications can also be taken, all under medical supervision. PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis) is taken by those at risk of HIV infection to avoid contracting it through sex or injection drugs.
In the event of possible exposure to HIV, PEP (post-exposure prophylaxis) can be taken and should only be used in emergency situations within 72 hours after exposure.
Is there a vaccine?
He is still in studies. A prototype for an HIV vaccine reached stage three in late 2020, the last phase of its trials, in which it is tested in humans.
This happened for the first time in more than a decade. A past attempt to obtain an antidote culminated in 2009, when it was found to prevent only 30% of infections.
The biological, developed by the Belgian pharmaceutical Janssen – which also created the single-dose vaccine against COVID – is being tested in several Latin American countries, including Mexico and Brazil.