HIV/AIDS

What is AIDS?
•AIDS: Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome
•Acquired: you are exposed to HIV and get infected.
•Immune: This is the part of the body that fights infections. HIV weakens your immune system.
•Deficiency: it causes a deficiency in your immune system so you cannot fight off infection.
•Syndrome: the AIDS syndrome occurs when you have tested positive for HIV antibodies and develop two opportunistic infections.


Opportunistic Infections
•Trush: a fungal infection of the throat, mouth, or vagina.
•PCP or pneumocystis: Pneumocystis almost always infects the lungs, causing a form of pneumonia. It's the most opportunistic infection in people with HIV. It has been the major killer for people with HIV.
•Kaposi's sarcoma (KS): is a cancer-like disease. KS looks like small skin lesions. They are usually, flat, painless and do not itch or drain. They can look like bruises, but bruises lose their color when pressed, KS do not. KS lesions can grow into raised bumps or patches.
•Wasting syndrome: AIDS wasting is the involuntary loss of more than 10% of body weight, plus more than 30 days of diarrhea, or weakness and fever. Wasting is linked to disease progression and death.


How is HIV contracted?
•Unprotected sex (semen, pre-semen, vaginal fluids)
•Sharing used and dirty needles (blood to blood)
•Mother to child transmissions and breast milk if breastfeeding
You cannot get HIV from other bodily fluids such as:
•Saliva
•Sweat
•Tears
•Urine
Remember that you can only get HIV from semen, vaginal fluids, blood, or breastmilk.

How does HIV affect humans?
The HIV virus enters the body and attacks your white blood cells (CD4 or Helper T). These are the cells that fight infection (your immune system). Once it attacks these cells, it puts on a disguise and tricks the helper T cells into thinking it's one of them. When this happens your immune system puts down its guard and the virus multiplies and can even mutate. Once the virus multiplies, it then spreads through the body and causes your immune system to become weakened. The virus then replicates increasing the number of infected cells. If the number of infected or viral cells is greater than the number of helper T cells then you are at risk for opportunistic infections and the illness can be fatal.

 

Prevention
The most realistic prevention methods are:
•Using a new condom every time you have sex.
•Decreasing the number of sexual partners you have.
•Do not have sex under the influence of alcohol or drugs.
•Avoid anything that can pierce the skin unless you know for sure that it's been steralized.
•Not having sex at all.


HIV/AIDS is 100% preventable.
Treatment
People with HIV can take three different types of treatment.
•Western medicine.
◦These drugs, often known as 'combination therapies' or 'the cocktail', slow down HIV replication, therefore slowing down the adverse affects of HIV infection.
•Traditional medicine.
◦There are elders from our communities willing to help people living with HIV/AIDS.
•Alternative therapies.
◦Available to help relieve the opportunistic infections.


Types of Testing
•Nominal
◦Means a person's full name is included in their medical records.
◦If their HIV test comes out positive their name and address will be passed on to Public Health.
•Non-nominal
◦Only the health care provider and the person being tested know.
◦A code number is used to identify the person
◦It is still possible to link a clients number to the Public Health Department.
•Anonymous
◦Means that absolutely noone has access to the results
◦People do not have to give their real name.
◦They can make up a name or they will be given a code number.
◦They do not have to provide an address, phone number or health card number.
◦There is no way the result can be traced back to the person that was tested.


What it means to be HIV (-)
A negative test result means that there were no HIV antibodies present in your body at the time of the test. Most positive tests will show up at three months, but HIV antibodies can take as long as six months to develop, so it is recommended to get tested 6 months and one year after exposure.

What it means to be HIV (+)
It means that a person has HIV in their blood and can infect others.

Although living with HIV can be a difficult and challenging experience, many people with HIV live meaningful, satifying and happy lives and contribute in important ways to their communities.