World AIDS Day was the first ever global health day established to raise awareness worldwide of the fight against AIDS. Since 1988, every December 1st is designated as World AIDS Day and this year marks the 30th anniversary.
World AIDS Day highlights the importance of universal treatment, care and support for people living with HIV/AIDS and their loved ones. Although this day being around for 30 years, HIV/AIDS has not gone away and the need to improve education, reduce stigma, and raise funds still remains.
What is HIV/AIDS?
HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus. HIV can lead to the development of acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS). HIV is a unique virus because even with treatment, the human body can never get rid of it completely. Individuals with HIV have it for life. HIV attacks the body’s immune system, specifically the T cells. T cells are a type of white blood cell that helps the immune system fight off infections. HIV destroys the body’s T cells, which reduces the body’s ability to fight off infection and disease. When the body’s T cell count is severely low, and the body becomes prone to infection, the individual can acquire AIDS, which is the last stage of HIV infection. There is no cure for HIV, but HIV can be managed with proper treatment. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is a form of medicine used to treat HIV.
Misconceptions about HIV/AIDS:
1. You can get HIV by kissing, hugging, sharing food, toilet seats, sweat, or sneezes and coughs.
This is false. HIV can only be passed on from person to person if infected body fluids such as, blood, semen, breast milk, and vaginal or anal secretions get into an individuals bloodstream. Possible ways for HIV to be transmitted is from unprotected sex, from a mother to a child during pregnancy, through breastfeeding, injecting drugs with a needle or from infected blood donations or organ transplants.
2. You can tell if someone has HIV.
This is false. Some individuals do not experience symptoms of HIV until years after. Some individuals with HIV do not experience any symptoms at all. Individuals with HIV can look healthy and normal if undergoing effective treatment.
3. Only males who engage in sexual activity with other males get HIV.
This is false. Both men and women can get HIV. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), in 2015, gay and bisexual men were the group most affected by HIV.
Learn more about the latest research in HIV/AIDS below:
1. Is self-testing with the rapid HIV test reliable?
Self-testing is a useful way to increase access to HIV testing. There are two types of rapid HIV self-tests: fluid-cased or blood-based. The accuracy of these tests are a concern as there are issues with proper administration or correct interpretation of the test by users. A study published in The Lancet HIV, evaluated the reliability of a rapid HIV test done by users versus HIV tests done by healthcare professionals. Read more to find out if self-testing is just as reliable as testing done by healthcare providers.
2. WHO recommendations for HIV treatment
The World Health Organization (WHO) is committed to improving HIV treatment, HIV prevention and HIV testing. However, there are challenges to ensuring universal health coverage and controlling the infection. A review by Swiss researchers was published in The Lancet Infectious Diseases to assess how much progress has been made and what still needs to be done to fulfill WHO’s vision. Read more about how the AIDS epidemic can end in the future here.
3. Are individuals with HIV at a higher risk for type 2 diabetes?
Individuals with HIV are four times more likely to get type 2 diabetes than individuals without HIV. Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to treat and manage HIV. ART is linked to dysglycaemia or abnormalities in blood glucose levels which leads to disease. Researchers in the United Kingdom conducted a study which was published in PLoS One, to investigate patients living with HIV and their potential risk factors to developing type 2 diabetes. Read more to find out if HIV is a risk factor for type 2 diabetes here.
4. HIV Prevention: Is a combination approach an effective strategy?
HIV prevention and treatment are important global health objectives. For this reason, there are many strategies in ending HIV such as antiretroviral therapy, safe sex education, accessibility to HIV testing and treatment. A study published in The New England Journal of Medicine evaluated the different approaches to treating HIV to determine an effective strategy. Read more to find out what approach is the most effective to prevent HIV here.
5. Finding a cure for HIV: Navigating the ethics
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to treat HIV and help patients return to a seemingly healthy life. There are about 36.7 million people living with HIV and in 2015, about 1.1 million people died of HIV/AIDS-related complications. ART is not a cure for HIV, however, researchers continue to attempt to find a cure. A review published in PLoS Medicine outlined and assessed possible cures for HIV in regards to identifying potential ethical and implementational challenges. Read more about possible cures for HIV and this review here.
Want to know more? Read about the latest HIV/AIDS research here.
Written by Alana Punit
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5. Hizartzidis, Lacey. “Are Individuals With HIV At A Higher Risk For Type 2 Diabetes?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/individuals-hiv-higher-risk-type-2-diabetes/. Accessed 29 Nov 2018.
6. Hizartzidis, Lacey. “Finding A Cure For HIV: Navigating The Ethics”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/finding-cure-hiv-navigating-ethics/. Accessed 29 Nov 2018.
7. Hizartzidis, Lacey. “WHO Recommendations For HIV Treatment”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/who-recommendations-hiv-treatment/. Accessed 29 Nov 2018.
8. Leung, Maggie. “Is Self-Testing With The Rapid HIV Test Reliable?”. Medical News Bulletin, 2018, https://www.medicalnewsbulletin.com/is-self-testing-with-the-rapid-hiv-test-reliable/. Accessed 29 Nov 2018.