How Fear Inhibits HIV Testing and Treatment in African Men

How Fear Inhibits HIV Testing and Treatment in African Men Image

HIV is a potentially life-threatening virus that damages the immune system, causing a disease known as AIDS to develop. It is through unprotected sexual intercourse – including oral, vaginal, and anal that this dangerous virus is being transmitted from one person to another. 

Although HIV is spread all around the world, affecting roughly 34 million people, it seems that Africa is one of the countries with the highest incidence where around 69% of the infected people live. And unfortunately, children are not spared of this horrible disease as well. 91% of infected children with HIV/AIDS are thought to live in Africa

Fear prevents African men from getting tested and treated for HIV

Although for the longest time now, the lack of knowledge has been linked as a contributing factor to the continuous spread of HIV in Africa, it seems that there is an even bigger factor to be considered. We are talking about fear. But when we mention fear, we do not mean fear of the disease itself, but fear of how these people would be treated by other people in their society once they are diagnosed with HIV/AIDS.

A new study published in 2019 in PLoS One has demonstrated the influence of fear upon the decision-making process to get tested and properly treated. The focus of the study has been men and how the feeling of fear influences them in a scenario where they would have to get tested for HIV and then treated if needed. Multiple interviews and surveys with 227 African men have been conducted to gather enough data on the topic.

The men were later divided into three groups – men who were unaware of their HIV status, men who were aware of being HIV positive but not getting any treatment, and men who were aware of their status of being HIV positive and getting properly treated. It was discovered that many men tend to hide their positive HIV status and with that trying to preserve the image that they have created for themselves and are showing to the people in their surrounding environment.

It seems that the men living in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, are afraid to get tested for HIV, contributing to the continuous spread of this disease. The source of their fear is the fact that HIV/AIDS is still considered to be a stigma in Africa and often being linked to feelings of shame and fear, thus resulting in a lack of much-needed action. It seems that the African men fear that their HIV positive status will interfere and lower their masculinity and, therefore, their ability to form and support their families, work, and actively engage in their society. 

References

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4924471/

http://files.unaids.org/en/media/unaids/contentassets/documents/epidemiology/2012/gr2012/20121120_FactSheet_Global_en.pdf

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-hiv-africa

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6808548/

STDs Symptoms in Men

STDs Symptoms in Men Image

Various symptoms are expected to develop due to STDs, and it is important for every man to keep these symptoms in mind. That is why in the following article we will briefly discuss the most common STDs and their symptoms in men. 

The most common STDs and their symptoms in men

Chlamydia

Chlamydia is a bacterial infection of the genital tract that can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral unprotected sex. Chlamydia usually goes unnoticed there are very few to no symptoms showing. In fact, it has been estimated that around 25-50% of the male patients with Chlamydia experience no symptoms whatsoever. And the ones that do, usually struggle with:

  • Swollen testicles
  • Painful urination
  • Penile discharge

The good news is that Chlamydia is easily treated with the use of antibiotics. However, repetitive infections are possible and quite common, which is why past patients are advised towards protected sex and regular testing for Chlamydia. 

Human Papillomavirus (HPV)

HPV is one of the most common STDs known to men and women all around the world. The most obvious reason to get infected with this difficult virus is of course, through unprotected sexual contact. Men who get infected with HPV usually do not develop any symptoms right away. Some of them might develop some symptoms months or years after the initial infection. The most characteristic symptom of HPV is genital warts which develop when oral or anal sex is listed as the main reason. Otherwise, oral warts are expected to develop.

When it comes to HPV, it is better to prevent it than to treat it. That is why there is a vaccine that anybody can get as a way to protect themselves against HPV. Of course, protected sex is another valid prevention method not only for HPV but for all STDs in general. HPV, if it does not show any symptoms, can resolve on its own without any treatment. However, if there are symptoms present, then you definitely need to visit your doctor.

Gonorrhea

Gonorrhea is another bacterial infection that can be transmitted through vaginal, anal, and oral sex, thus affecting the urethra, anus, and throat. Gonorrhea in men rarely causes any symptoms to develop. However, when they do, the following symptoms are expected to develop:

  • Painful urination
  • White, yellow, or green penile discharge that usually occurs one to fourteen days after the individual has been infected with the bacterium Neisseria gonorrhoeae
  • Pain that is felt in the testicles
  • Itching and soreness in the area of the anus
  • Bloody discharge from the anus
  • Skin rash
  • Painful, swollen glands in the throat

Gonorrhea is also treated with the use of antibiotics. Once again, past patients are advised towards safe, protected sex and regular testing. They also need to be explained the increasing rise of antibiotic-resistant gonorrhea, which will make treatment more difficult in the future.

Genital herpes

Herpes is an infection due to the hepatitis simplex virus (HSV). There are two types of hepatitis, of which type 2 is always transmitted through unprotected sex and leads to the development of genital hepatitis. The symptoms of genital herpes in men include:

  • Painful blisters in the genital area
  • Burning and tingling sensations around the blisters
  • Loss of appetite 
  • Muscle aches
  • Fever
  • Swollen lymph nodes

When it comes to herpes, there are some general methods that can be used to treat the momentary outbreak; however, future outbreaks are expected to happen. Unfortunately, there is no way to prevent any future outbreaks. 

AIDS 

AIDS is a life-threatening disease that is caused by an infection with the human immunodeficiency virus. HIV can be transmitted through a variety of ways, including unprotected sexual contact with a person infected with HIV or who is a carrier of HIV, contaminated needles, from mother to child during pregnancy, etc. This virus attacks your immune system, causing mild to more severe infections to develop in your body. Other than that, upon getting infected, there are some general symptoms that can be experienced including a sore throat, headaches, skin rash, fatigue, and swollen lymph nodes. It can take up to 10 years for the infection and disease themselves to be diagnosed. Prevention is key when it comes to AIDS and HIV.

How to treat HIV/Aids

How to treat HIV/Aids Image

If you are diagnosed with HIV, then you need to start treatment as soon as possible to avoid replication and multiplication of the virus in your body and damaging the immune system.  The good thing is that due to medical advancements and research, there are better HIV treatment options today than there were some years back.

When seeking medical help from your doctor, always share with them the history of your infection including all past health complications as well as alternative medications or therapies you have been using and all drugs and supplements you have been taking. Once the doctor prescribes the medication, always follow the instructions keenly and take the drugs correctly so you can slow down the replication of the virus and have the infection under control.

Antiretroviral therapy (ART)

This is the most effective HIV treatment option that involves taking antiretroviral drugs. There are quite many of these drugs, but all fall into six major categories each fighting the virus differently. All antiretroviral drugs work to improve how well the immune system works, control replication and multiplication of the virus, slow down and stop the symptoms, and prevent the spread of the virus to other people.

The main categories of ART drugs include;

  1. Nucleoside/ nucleotide reverse transcriptase inhibitors-NRTIs (these work by forcing the HIV to use fake versions of building blocks hence preventing replication and multiplications)
  2. Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors– NNRTIs (these work by binding to a specific protein to prevent the virus from making copies
  3. Protease inhibitors-PIs (these work by blocking proteins needed by infected cells to create new HIV particles
  4. Fusion inhibitors– enfuvirtide, the first fusion inhibitor to be approved by FDA works by preventing the virus from getting into the healthy cells.
  5. CCR5 antagonist– these work by blocking the entry of HIV into healthy cells, works differently from how the fusion inhibitors work
  6. Integrase inhibitors– these drugs work to stop HIV from multiplying by blocking a major protein that allows the virus to put its DNA into healthy cells.

Monoclonal antibody– this is a modern type of antiretroviral therapy drug explicitly prescribed for adults living with HIV and whose HIV has developed resistance due to the use of multiple HIV medications. The drugs work by preventing HIV infected cells from spreading the virus and affecting uninfected cells. Others work by increasing the efficacy of drugs you are already using.

It has however been recommended that a combination of these drugs is the best way to have your HIV under control and preventing the virus from being resistant to a specific drug. A report by US Department of Health and Human Services, recommends that any HIV patient starts with three drugs from at least two of the main groups depending on the specific medical conditions they are suffering or likely to experience and how well their immune system is working. The doctor may also include other medicines for other specific health problems related to HIV.

The sad thing about the ART drugs is that they come with various side effects; however, newer medications are manufactured in a way that they do not cause much of the side effects. Among the common ones reported in a research study include;

  • Fatigue
  • Skin rashes
  • Diarrhea
  • Dizziness
  • Sleeping problems
  • Digestive discomfort
  • Memory loss
  • Pain and numbness

See your doctor immediately for guidance in the event you experience any of the above side effects. Also, never stop or skip your doses as that would make the virus stronger and dangerous. Continuous tests will also be necessary to help your doctor ascertain how well the prescribed medicines are working and better plan your treatment. Among the ongoing tests, you will be subjected to include; viral load to determine how much of the virus is in your blood, CD4 count to assess the health status of your immune system, blood tests for such conditions as blood sugar, and anemia, urine test to determine the state of your kidneys, triglyceride tests and tests for STIs like syphilis, gonorrhea, Chlamydia, and herpes.

References

https://www.webmd.com/hiv-aids/aids-hiv-medication#1

https://aidsinfo.nih.gov/understanding-hiv-aids/fact-sheets/21/53/what-to-start–choosing-an-hiv-regimen

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5012643/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/28910489

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3764307/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3138376/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15110129

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2777720/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3541389/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2630880/

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3786003/

How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

How Common is HIV and Syphilis Co-Infection in Ghana, Africa?

HIV and syphilis are dangerous enough when they appear alone, but even more dangerous when they appear together, causing a co-infection to occur, especially in pregnant women, thinking on all of the things that can go wrong with both the mother’s and the baby’s health. in the following article, we will look a bit deeper in the prevalence of a HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa and discuss the risks that an infection of that kind brings.

HIV and syphilis co-infection

HIV, short from human immunodeficiency virus, is a virus that damages the human immune system, causing the unfortunately well-known disease called AIDS. HIV is most commonly transmitted due to unprotected sexual intercourse, including oral, vaginal, and anal, while it can also be transmitted through bodily fluids such as saliva, blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids.

Currently, there is a dangerously high HIV prevalence around the world, with an especially high rise in the number of HIV cases in Ghana, Africa. As of 2014, there have been roughly 150,000 people infected with HIV in Africa alone, while it has been suggested that around 91% of the children infected with HIV worldwide are living in Africa.

But it is not only HIV whose rates are high in Africa. There are other STDs to be mentioned as well, with syphilis being one of them. Syphilis is a sexually transmitted infection (STI) caused by a bacteria known as Treponema palladium. This infection is also transmitted through unprotected sexual intercourse, with dangerously high rates on an international level, and approximately 8.5% prevalence of syphilis in Cape Coast, Ghana.

The prevalence of HIV and syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa

What is frightening about HIV and syphilis is that they often appear in a sort of co-infection, being strongly linked with one another. Although syphilis alone is highly treatable thanks to the discovery of penicillin, it increases the incidence of HIV infections on an international level.

Syphilis and HIV can be transmitted during pregnancy from the infected mother to her baby in the womb, increasing the risk of neonatal death, spontaneous abortus, low birth weight, and congenital syphilis and HIV infection among many others. Because of the high probability of an existing HIV/syphilis infection during pregnancy, it is of vital importance that every pregnant woman is tested for both HIV and syphilis as early as the first visit to the doctor’s office as well as all throughout the different stages of pregnancy.

A study published in the Journal of Infection investigated the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection in Ghana, Africa. The results showed that the seroprevalence of HIV/syphilis co-infection is approximately 18.4%, which serves as a relatively high seroprevalence. The researchers continued to explain how early testing and detecting in addition to proper treatment in the cases where there is a positive presence of HIV or syphilis or a co-infection for that matter, contributes to the reduction of the risk of these two infections being further spread among the population.

The study also revealed that when there is an HIV/ syphilis co-infection, the patients usually present with the first HIV symptoms a lot earlier, as compared with those patients where there is only HIV infection being present. This means that by raising awareness, we can work to improve the chances of these patients noticing and reporting their symptoms in the early stages, eventually proceeding to gain access to proper treatment with penicillin and ART (antiretroviral therapy).

Conclusion

In the last couple of years, more and more people in Ghana, Africa, as well as all around the world, have been struggling with an HIV/syphilis co-infection. This co-infection is known to bring various risks and reduce the quality of life of these individuals, but what is even more dangerous is the impact that this co-infection has on the health of pregnant women and their babies.

References

http://www.healthdata.org/sites/default/files/files/images/news_release/2019/HIV%20Press%20Release%20-%20GHANA.pdf

https://www.sciencedirect.com/science/article/abs/pii/S0953620508001301

http://www.panafrican-med-journal.com/content/article/33/252/full/

https://www.journalofinfection.com/article/S0163-4453(10)00277-X/pdf

Implant Protect Women From HIV

Implant Protect Women From HIV Image

 HIV is a highly prevalent sexually transmitted infection. People who are infected with HIV have no way of curing the infection. There are effective strategies that may help with the management of HIV, but prevention should always be a priority. Through years of research, scientists have developed numerous strategies that help to assist in reducing the prevalence of HIV infections. One of the most recent advancements come in the form of an implant. The implant seems to assist in reducing the risk of HIV in the female population. 

The Prevalence Of HIV Among The Female Population

HIV is prevalent among the worldwide female population. In some countries, however, there does seem to be a higher risk and prevalence of the HIV infection, compared to other countries. Data from a publication in the Journal of AIDS Research and Therapy provide more insight into the prevalence of the condition in specified populations. 

According to the research paper, about one-third of all cases related to HIV infections are linked to the sub-Saharan Africa region. The paper also explains that the current prevalence of HIV among the female population in this region is considered unacceptable. Even though many advancements have been made in terms of preventing HIV infections, the condition still remains a prevalent STD among this particular population – and many other populations in underdeveloped countries too. 

How An Implant May Prevent HIV In Women

New strategies are constantly being developed to help reduce the prevalence of HIV among the worldwide population. A new strategy focuses primarily on women, due to the high vulnerability often noted among the female population. 

The new strategy comes in the form of a vaginal implant. The implant is administered by a licensed physician and will remain present in the vagina of the female patient. Once implanted, the small medical device will focus on helping the woman’s risk of being infected with HIV. 

The vaginal implant is equipped with a special drug. The drug puts the T cells that are found in the genital tract of the female patient in a “quiescent” state. This means the T cells become less active – leading to a reduced productive state for the virus that causes HIV infections.

Researchers have found that when T cells in the vagina are placed into this type of resting state, it may potentially block the HIV virus early in its life cycle

The New Implant Might Be The Solution

A new implant may be the key to reducing the risk of HIV infections among women. HIV does not only pose a risk to a woman but during pregnancy, the condition is often carried over to the unborn child. Reducing the risk through this new implant will play an important role in the preventative strategy that the world is implementing. 

References

https://aidsrestherapy.biomedcentral.com/articles/10.1186/1742-6405-10-30

https://doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4939-2410-3_26

HIV And Cancer – What Patients Need To Know

HIV cancer

Each year, the HIV virus infects more than one million people around the world, with an estimated 1.7 million individuals infected in the year 2018. Africa accounts for quite a large percentage of adults and children that are infected with this virus. In the Eastern and Southern regions of Africa, an estimated 57% of adults have been infected with HIV.

A large number of those individuals who have been infected with this particular virus have not yet been tested – and do not realize the risks that they are facing with their general well-being. One particular risk that needs to be addressed is the fact that there is an increased risk of cancer among individuals who suffer an HIV infection.

The Increased Risk Of Cancer Caused By HIV

A common question asked by those infected with the HIV virus is whether or not they are truly at a higher risk of cancer. The short answer is yes – there is actually a significant increase observed in the risk of cancer among HIV sufferers. It is, however, important to note that the risk is only increased for a specific number of cancerous diseases.

When a patient develops cancer after they have been infected with HIV, the condition will usually be referred to as HIV-associated cancer.

The most important types of HIV-associated cancers that patients do need to be wary of include:

  • Cervical cancer (only applies to female patients who are infected)
  • Kaposi sarcoma (a type of B-cell non-Hodgkin lymphoma that is considered aggressive and dangerous)
  • Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome defining cancers, also called AIDs-defining cancers

The increased risk of these cancers among individuals with HIV is defined as follow:

  • An HIV positive individual is 500 times more likely to develop Kaposi sarcoma than those who are not infected.
  • There is a 12x increased risk of non-Hodgkin lymphoma among individuals with HIV.
  • Women diagnosed with HIV are also three times as likely to develop cervical cancer compared to those female patients who are not infected with the virus.

In addition to considering these HIV-associated cancers, there also seems to be an increased risk of other cancers among these patients:

  • Liver cancer
  • Anal cancer
  • Oral cavity cancer
  • Pharynx cancer
  • Lung cancer

In addition to considering these factors, it is important to note that when the HIV virus is accompanied by certain conditions or complications, there is a further increase in the patient’s risk of developing certain cancers.

One example is Kaposi sarcoma-associated herpesvirus. This disease is also called human herpesvirus 8. The presence of Epstein-Barr virus, along with HIV, also puts a person at a higher risk of both Hodgkin and non-Hodgkin lymphoma.

Patients with HIV and infection with either hepatitis B or C are also at an increased risk of developing cancer in their liver.

Using testing kits, such as those provided by Ghana Medicals, can help a person detect the presence of HIV at an early stage – which might assist in reducing the risk of cancer when appropriate treatment is initiated.

Weak immune system

People who are infected with the virus that causes HIV to have a weak immune system and have also been found to be at a significantly higher risk of developing certain types of cancer. Those individuals who are affected by certain complications associated with HIV are at an even higher risk of developing these cancers.

References

https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics
https://www.cancer.gov/about-cancer/causes-prevention/risk/infectious-agents/hiv-fact-sheet#r2

How Big Of A Role Does Migration Play In HIV Transmission In South Africa?

South Africa and HIV

Identifying the risk factors for HIV and STD has had a positive impact on the prevention and treatment of these serious diseases. But is migration one of those risk factors? Should we be considered about the millions of people who are migrating across South Africa and spreading HIV and other STDs? A 2003 study has investigated this very same question, so let’s find out the answer, shall we?

The role of migration in HIV transmission among those living in South Africa

Africa is one of the countries with the highest STD prevalence in the world, being one of the high burden countries as it is. A study published in 2016 has revealed that there are approximately 36.7 million people infected with HIV on an international level, with 2.1 million of those living in Africa alone. But it is not only adults that are affected by this frightening disease. Over the years, it has been suggested that 91% of the HIV-infected children are living in Africa, as well.

And it is not only HIV that we need to be worried about since there are many common STDs such as gonorrhea and syphilis that are also frequently diagnosed in Africa as well. Despite the fact that they are curable as compared to HIV, they still present an economic burden and a factor that reduces the quality of life for these individuals.

Researching common factors

Researchers have made an effort to discover the most common factors that contribute to the high HIV and STD rates in Africa. It has been revealed that people living in Africa are usually unaware of the risks that these dangerous diseases pose, but studies have also revealed that there have been many people who are very well aware of these risks and still fail to get regular check-ups and proper treatment when needed. For example, a study published in 2019 has revealed that it is the feelings of shame and fear that are preventing these people from asking for help, which is why they decide to live with the consequences in silence.

But the search for the factors that contribute to the high HIV rates has begun as early as 2003 when a study has been published in the Journal of Sexually Transmitted Diseases. Researchers have conducted the study to investigate if migration plays any role in the spreading of the HIV infection.

For the purposes of the research, 196 migrant men and 130 of their rural partners, including 64 nonmigrant men and 98 rural women, have been included in the study. The male migrants have been recruited at work in two different urban centers with their rural partners being invited to participate as well, while the nonmigrant couples have been recruited for comparison. Questionnaires and blood samples for HIV detection have been used to determine the presence of HIV infection in both migrant and nonmigrant couples.

What the study revealed was that migration is one of the high-risk factors for HIV infection, next to practicing unprotected sexual intercourse and having lived in four or more places during a lifetime. For women, being the partner of a migrant man has not been considered to be a significant risk factor for HIV. This draws attention to proper workplace interventions to prevent further spreading of HIV and other common STDs.

Conclusion

Over the years, researchers have been able to identify any high-risk factors for HIV and other common STDs. With that, they have been able to raise awareness and work to reduce the high HIV and STD rates on an international level. One of those high-risk factors for HIV has been migration, especially in South Africa. With that, we are one step closer to causing a significant decline in the STD and HIV prevalence and preserving people’s lives.

References

https://www.amfar.org/worldwide-aids-stats/

https://www.dosomething.org/us/facts/11-facts-about-hiv-africa#fnref1

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article/authors?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0223414

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/10918165_The_Impact_of_Migration_on_HIV-1_Transmission_in_South_Africa

HIV in Kids

HIV information

HIV does not only affect adults. Unfortunately, it does not choose according to sex, age, race, or any factor, which results in affecting anyone at any point in time, at any place around the world. Still, there are some groups that are affected more commonly than others, and young children are not excluded from this group. HIV is quite common among kids as well, causing their quality of life to significantly decrease over time while being responsible for millions of children dying because of it.

Causes of HIV in kids

In most cases of HIV in children, we are looking at HIV being transmitted during pregnancy from the infected mother to her baby in the womb. In a lot of cases as well, the virus has been transmitted during the period of breastfeeding. HIV and syphilis are the two STDs that can be easily transmitted during pregnancy and breastfeeding.

That is why it is usual to get tested for both HIV and syphilis during the first visit to the doctor’s office once a pregnancy has been discovered. If there is a case of HIV or syphilis, early diagnosis and treatment greatly lower the risk of the chance of the virus to be transmitted to the baby.

Sadly, but true – A lot of children have been infected with HIV as a result of sexual abuse or rape. Young female children that are traditionally married to older men, often get infected with HIV and later transmit it to their baby. In fact, the younger the child is, the higher the chances to get infected with HIV, and other STDs for that matter are. In addition, adolescents that engage in unprotected sexual intercourse of any kind, including oral, vaginal, and anal sex, are also exposed to the risk of HIV and AIDS.

How common is HIV in kids?

In 2016, 2.1 million of them children under the age of 16 on an international level, were diagnosed with HIV. Of those, it is suggested that 91% are living in Africa, resulting in about 3.2 million children infected with HIV in 2013. Now with the majority of HIV-infected children living in Africa, AIDS has been considered to be one of the leading causes of death among adolescents in this country.

In most cases, it has been their mothers who have transmitted the HIV infection during pregnancy or breastfeeding due to the lack of awareness, failing to notice the present symptoms, and asking for help in time.

Treating HIV in kids

Although there is no cure for HIV, there is a wide variety of medications that can be used to support a healthy condition and prevent HIV from progressing to HIV. Usually, a combination of medications is being used to treat the present symptoms and prevent them from progressing in the future.

The main goals of any HIV patient are to keep the number of CD4 cells as high as possible and reduce the viral load of HIV. In order to do that, along with the proper treatment, regular blood tests are done in order to measure the levels of CD4 cells in the body.

Millions are affected around the world

Affecting millions of young children around the world, with most of them living in Africa and other high burden countries, HIV represents a dangerous and life-threatening virus that needs to be prevented the best that it can. With infected mothers transmitting their HIV infection to their baby during pregnancy, and the infection spreading through unprotected sexual intercourse, it is easy to understand how we have such a big number of affected people, and sadly children, living all around the world.

References

https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-social-issues/key-affected-populations/children#footnote7_yfxramp
https://www.amfar.org/worldwide-aids-stats/
https://www.unicef.org/publications/files/UNICEF_Annual_Report_2015_En.pdf

What Everyone Should Know About World AIDS Day

HIV information

Every year December 1 is marked as World AIDS Day around the globe and an opportunity to raise awareness of HIV/AIDS, inspire people to get tested, and encourage them to learn as much as they can about this widespread problem. But, you don’t have to wait for December 1 to learn about HIV. You should use every opportunity you have to get informed. Scroll down to see what everyone should know about HIV.

What is HIV?

Human immunodeficiency virus or HIV is a virus that damages a person’s immune system, especially CD4 cells (also known as T cells). Over time, especially when not managed properly, HIV destroys so many cells that the immunity is unable to protect the body from diseases and infections.

HIV vs. AIDS

Most people think HIV and AIDS are the same things, but they are not. HIV is a virus, but AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a condition. Developing HIV can lead to AIDS. In other words, AIDS is stage 3 of HIV and develops when the virus has caused significant damage to the immune system. Not every person with HIV will develop AIDS.

How is HIV transmitted?

HIV is spread from one person to another through bodily fluids that include blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, and breast milk. One person cannot get HIV through casual contact with an infected individual e.g., through a handshake.

What are the symptoms of HIV?

Within two to four weeks after HIV infection, a person may develop flu-like symptoms such as fever and chills, headache, rash, sore throat, swollen lymph nodes in the neck, and muscle or joint pain. These symptoms may last a few days, but in some people, they persist for several weeks. Symptoms are usually mild, and most people don’t even notice them.

As the virus marks progress, the swelling of the lymph nodes becomes more pronounced, and other symptoms worsen too.

Who is at risk of HIV?

Factors that increase the risk of HIV include:

  • Having unprotected sex
  • Presence of STD
  • Use of intravenous drugs
  • Being an uncircumcised man

Is HIV curable?

Unfortunately, no! HIV is a lifelong problem. Scientists and doctors are trying to find a cure for HIV, and hopefully, in the near future, they will succeed. At this point, there are various treatments, such as antiretroviral therapy, to manage this condition and prevent complications or its progression to AIDS.

Prevalence of HIV

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), about 37.9 million people had HIV in 2018. In June 2019, 24.5 million people were accessing antiretroviral therapy. The prevalence of HIV is particularly high in sub-Saharan countries. This is partly due to low awareness of HIV, stigma associated with getting tested, and insufficient prevention campaigns.

HIV is still a global problem

Although the number of people with HIV has decreased over the decades, millions of people, including children, still have it. This lifelong condition can be managed with antiretroviral therapy that prevents complications and progression to AIDS.

Read more: HIV in Ghana is on the rise

Read More: HIV in Nigeria

References

https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/hiv-aids/symptoms-causes/syc-20373524

https://www.healthline.com/health/hiv-aids

https://www.who.int/news-room/fact-sheets/detail/hiv-aids

The Benefits of an Early Diagnosis for STIs

The Benefits of an Early Diagnosis for STIs in Africa

More than 448 million people around the globe are infected with STIs. 110 million of those infected live in the sub-Saharan African region. That’s is almost a quarter of the entire population carrying these infections.

For many years now, sub-Saharan Africa has been dealing with a high prevalence of STIs. Syphilis, chlamydia, trich, herpes, and gonorrhea are a serious issue for Africa, with Gonorrhea having the highest prevalence in the southern region registered at 4.6%.

This infection, like all the others, is extremely common among the young population between the ages of 15 to 24. If these infections are left untreated, they will have a significant impact on the quality of life, reproductive system, and a child’s health.

So, why is early diagnosis important for treating these infections? Let’s take a look at why early detection and treatment are vital for those infected.

The Importance of an Early Diagnosis for STIs

Early diagnosis for STIs is the key to a successful prognosis for these infections. The sooner people get diagnosed, the better the chances of receiving medications for successful and quick treatment effects.

This, in fact, allows people to have a better opportunity in treating these infections rather than transmitting them. An early diagnosis helps people live longer and reduces their chances of developing these infections later in life.

Detecting the STIs early on plays a crucial role in stopping the transmission of these infections to the unborn child or sexual partner. In certain cases, it might even save someone’s life.

By treating these infections on time, people can avoid:

  • Infertility
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Cervical cancer
  • Birth defects or pregnancy risks
  • Dementia
  • Organ damage
  • Stillbirth

If people do test positive for any STIs, no matter if it’s a parasitic, viral, or bacterial infection, it’s important that they seek treatment to avoid these health complications and live a healthy life.

Most STIs can be treated with simple medications, but if left untreated, they can result in HIV or AIDS. However, AIDS/HIV will require different drugs to suppress the virus rather than to eliminate it.

Why Do People in Africa Have the Highest Prevalence in STIs?

Even though many developing countries, particularly in the African region, do have access to screening equipment for STIs, these infections still remain a major problem for the entire population.

Africa has inadequate treatment and prevention gaps for controlling these infections. Because of the limited access to such treatments, many STIs remain undetected and untreated.

Also, due to the cultural stigma surrounding STIs, many infections remain undiagnosed, and people often don’t get adequate treatment.

If these STIs are not managed on-time, people are prone to developing an HIV infection and transmitting that infection.

Early diagnosis and treatment for STIs are vital

Early diagnosis and treatment for STIs are vital, especially in sub-Saharan Africa. To control the constant transmission, people need access to early screenings and proper antibiotics to treat these infections.

While Africa still remains the most infected region with sexually transmitted infections, it’s without a doubt, the most important area to address and increase awareness of this problem and to make screening options, diagnosis, and treatment available for the entire population.

References

https://sti.bmj.com/content/87/Suppl_2/ii10

https://sti.bmj.com/content/87/Suppl_2/ii19

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002511

https://www.cdc.gov/mmwr/preview/mmwrhtml/00054174.htm

https://www.washtenaw.org/1348/Benefits-of-HIV-STI-Testing

http://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1415-790X2011000300011&lng=en&nrm=iso&tlng=en