HIV
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HIV


HIV is the human immunodeficiency virus. It is the virus that can lead to acquired immune deficiency syndrome, or AIDS. HIV damages a person’s body by destroying specific blood cells, called CD4+ T cells, which are crucial to helping the body fight diseases. 

 
 
Signs and symptoms
Within a few weeks of being infected with HIV, some people develop flu-like symptoms that last for a week or two, but others have no symptoms at all. People living with HIV may appear and feel healthy for several years, but HIV would still be affecting their bodies. Early signs and symptoms of HIV could include:
 
     
  • Fever
  • Headache
  • Tiredness
  • Nausea
  • Diarrhoea
  • Enlarged lymph nodes in the neck, armpits or groin
 

 

The following signs and symptoms may be warning signs of late-stage HIV infection:
 

 

     
  • rapid weight loss
  • dry cough
  • recurring fever or profuse night sweats
  • profound and unexplained fatigue
  • swollen lymph glands in the armpits, groin, or neck
  • diarrhoea lasting more than a week
  • white spots or unusual blemishes on the tongue, in the mouth, or in the throat
  • pneumonia
  • red, brown, pink, or purplish blotches on or under the skin or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids
  • memory loss, depression, and other neurological disorders
 

 

Modes of transmission
Most common modes of transmission:
 

 

     
  • Unprotected Sexual contact with an infected person
  • Sharing needles, syringes, rinse water, or other equipment used to prepare illicit drugs for injection
  • From mother-to-child - HIV can be passed from mother to child during pregnancy, birth, or breast-feeding.
 

 

Less common modes of transmission
 

 

     
  • Injuries with contaminated sharp objects including needles or non-sterile equipment.
  • Receiving contaminated blood products or organ/tissue transplants that are contaminated with HIV.
  • Extremely rarely it can be transmitted by contact between broken skin, wounds, or mucous membranes and HIV-infected blood or blood-contaminated body fluids.
 

 

HIV cannot reproduce outside the human body. It is not spread by:
 

 

     
  • Air or water.
  • Insects, including mosquitoes.
  • Saliva, tears, or sweat
  • Casual contact like shaking hands or sharing dishes.
 

 

Incubation period
There is a “window period” between infection with HIV and the production of antibodies by the body, during which period the patient is still infectious to others. The window period is usually 2 to 8 weeks but it can last up to 6 months. So a follow-up test has to be repeated 6 months after suspected infection
 
 
Diagnostic tests
The most commonly used HIV tests detect HIV antibodies – the substances the body creates in response to becoming infected with HIV. There are tests that look for HIV's genetic material or proteins directly. It can take a week or two before the test results are available. Any person who wishes to do this test should contact their GP or the GU (genitourinary) on 21277981. Confidentiality is guaranteed. 

 

 


Management of HIV

 

In Malta, at the moment, the HAART (Highly Affective Anti-Retroviral Therapy) is used.  This is a combination of multiple drugs that attack the virus at different points of its life cycle to try to decrease the viral load in the blood.  It is very important for the patient to be compliant with the treatment and to go for regular follow-ups, else the risk of the virus achieving drug resistance increases. These medications can limit or slow down the destruction of the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, and may reduce their ability to transmit HIV. Treatment of patients depends on their CD4 T helper cell count.  All pregnant females are given treatment to reduce the risk of them transmitting the disease to their child.

 

Untreated early HIV infection is also associated with many diseases including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer.  Support services are also available to many people with HIV. These services can help people cope with their diagnosis, reduce risk behaviour, and find needed services.

 

 

In Malta, at the moment, the HAART (Highly Affective Anti-Retroviral Therapy) is used. This is a combination of multiple drugs that attack the virus at different points of its life cycle to try to decrease the viral load in the blood. It is very important for the patient to be compliant with the treatment and to go for regular follow-ups, else the risk of the virus achieving drug resistance increases. These medications can limit or slow down the destruction of the immune system, improve the health of people living with HIV, and may reduce their ability to transmit HIV. Treatment of patients depends on their CD4 T helper cell count. All pregnant females are given treatment to reduce the risk of them transmitting the disease to their child.
 
Untreated early HIV infection is also associated with many diseases including cardiovascular disease, kidney disease, liver disease, and cancer. Support services are also available to many people with HIV. These services can help people cope with their diagnosis, reduce risk behaviour, and find needed services.
 
 
Prevention
 

 

  • Engage only in protected sex and use barrier protection
  • Avoid casual sex especially with strangers
  • Do not inject drugs. If you inject drugs, you should get counselling and treatment to stop or reduce your drug use. If you cannot stop injecting drugs, use clean needles and works when injecting.
  • Obtain medical treatment immediately if you think you were exposed to HIV. Sometimes, HIV medications can prevent infection if they are started quickly