HIV/AIDS was one time the most dreaded disease in the world. in fact, you can say it was a pandemic. It is believed that HIV originated in Kinshasa in the Democratic Republic of Congo In 1920, there was an unknown number of deaths, undocumented symptoms and causes of deaths. The name of the disease was formally called gay-related immune deficiency (GIRD) because the people who were first infected were gay men. AIDS was officially used in the early 1980s and the disease was an automatic death sentence before the advent of antiretroviral drugs. To this day, Huge numbers of people are still being infected and killed by HIV/AIDS and it seems like no one is talking about it anymore. I bet you probably don’t know so much about HIV /AIDS. If you know a thing or two, that’s great. But if you don’t, let’s do a quick recon of what HIV/AIDS is and the latest preventive measures against HIV/AIDS.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV is an acronym for Human Immunodeficiency Virus. This is a virus that attacks cells that protect the immune system thereby making the person vulnerable to attacks and infections. If HIV is left untreated it can progress to become AIDS (Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome). So far, there has been no proven cure for HIV/AIDS although there are preventive drugs and measures to help manage the disease especially when it’s still at the HIV stage. Antiretroviral drugs also help when it’s at the AIDS level but this comes with more health challenges. Once a person is confirmed to have HIV, it stays with the individual for life but there’s some hope that in the nearest future there will be a cure or a vaccine for AIDS. The life expectancy of an individual with AIDS is 3 years without Antiretroviral drugs, HIV destroys the immune system, leaving the body porous to attacks and opportunistic diseases. If by chance this individual has one of these opportunistic diseases, the life expectancy is reduced to 1 year. This is pretty terrible!
How does one get HIV?
HIV is transmitted through
i. Unprotected sex with an infected person
ii. Sharing blades and sharp objects used by an infected person
Iii. During childbirth and breastfeeding (mother to child).
When the HIV virus gets into the blood, it begins to attack the immune system and replicates very fast then spreads throughout the body. If your immune system is strong enough to stop the virus from replicating, then the virus will not progress to infect the rest of the body.
When we talk about HIV prevention, people will be like, yeah we’ve heard enough of it
- Don’t have indiscriminate unprotected sex, use a condom
- Don’t share needles, whether you are doing drugs or going to the salon to make or cut your hair
- If you have to share needles and clippers, ensure to sterilize them.
These are the loudest preventive measures but there’s a preventive measure that most people call the best-kept secret. I mean… I was also surprised when I heard a bunch of my male friends talking about it, it’s called PrEP (pre-exposure prophylaxis). It sounded pretty interesting and I was curious so I let them talk about it before I did any research. (they are randy guys by the way) So they talked about how they no longer have to bother about contracting HIV as long as they have a regular supply of the meds and keep on taking them.
This is fantastic news in so many ways but not a license to have indiscriminate unprotected sex because although it may protect you from HIV, it won’t stop you from contracting other sexually transmitted diseases and unwanted pregnancy. PrRP offers infected people a chance for a better life with a healthy partner without any fear of infecting them which means less stigmatization for people living with HIV.
What is PrEP
Let’s talk about PrEP for a bit, how it works, dosage and accessibility.
PrEP is pre-exposure prophylaxis, an HIV prevention option that works by taking it daily. It provides a high level of protection for people who don’t have HIV from getting it, especially when combined with condoms.
The body is protected by CD4-t cells, it protects the immune system and helps the body fight off invaders, when an HIV virus gets into the body, it attacks those cells and uses them to make more copies of itself, as many as 7 billion copies per day, like what?? That’s huge! These 7 billion viruses go into the body to make their own ‘disciples’, at this rate, the immune system is not able to keep up with this replication hence the HIV infection. But when PrEP is in this equation, taking PrEP every day builds extra protection on the CD4-t cells, when the virus attacks the cell, it will be unable to penetrate which means it has nowhere to build its 7billion ‘army’ and the virus is destroyed outside the CD4-t cell.
PrEP should be taken daily to build maximum protection and protection is guaranteed from 1 week after the medication begins. Prep is safe if taken as prescribed.
The purpose of world aids day every 1st of December annually is to create more awareness about this age-old disease, show support for people living with it and find ways to curb the spread and infection rate, that’s why this year of world AIDS day is themed end inequalities, end aids. We can stop the spread of HIV if more people don’t get infected by taking preventive care seriously both pre-exposure and post-exposure prophylaxis ( PrEP and PEP).
HIV can make one very sick and even cause death. Take these preventive measures listed above and always take a test if you are at risk of contracting the virus, early treatment stops the spread of the virus within the body and stops the progression to AIDS. People who take their HIV meds live full long lives like every other person and if you are not told, you can never know they are HIV positive. In this age of technology and brilliant scientists, no one should die from HIV and AIDS anymore. Don’t be afraid to get tested, take pre-exposure and post-exposure pills.
Show support for this day by wearing a red ribbon and sharing this article. Also, see where you can get PrEP near you or ask your doctor.