How Aware are Africans of STDs? Take a Look At This Recent Survey

How Aware are Africans of STDs? Take a Look At This Recent Survey Image

STDs are a massive health burden, particularly in low-income regions like the African continent. They’ve also had massive economic and social consequences. 

Recently, however, more countries and organizations have organized courses, centers, and volunteers to educate the African population on STDs’ importance, like syphilis, gonorrhea, chlamydia, etc. In some areas, the infection rates have been dropping. But, there is still a huge number of people infected.

The question is, have these efforts paid off? How many Africans are actually aware of STDs? We’ve decided to take a closer look at rural communities and poorer African regions. Here is what a recent statistical survey has to say. 

HIV Awareness in Africa

Over 68% of people infected with HIV live in Africa. In 2018, 800,000 new infections were registered in the southern and eastern parts of this continent. Does that mean not many people are aware of the infection?

Researchers asked over 1 million Africans from 35 countries, whether they think condoms will reduce the chance of contracting HIV. 66.8% of the participants answered “yes.” But, when they were asked whether sex will expose them to HBV, just 42.5% answered “yes.” 

In South Africa, researchers asked a different question. They gathered over 11,000 participants between the ages of 15 to 25. They were asked whether they understand the risk of HIV. Only 42.5% answered, “yes.” 

Another topic covered in the survey was mosquito bites. When asked whether they think a mosquito bite can get them infected with HIV, 16.8% of the 95,856 Nigerian citizens answered “yes.”

Based on reports, when a mosquito bites, only the saliva is injected into the human blood. Not the HIV positive cells. Compared to other mosquito-borne diseases, HIV is not one of them. The insect’s gut can’t replicate the HIV cells, which means it gets broken down before it can actually get transmitted. 

STDs Awareness in Africa

The African population is still not fully aware of the impact of HIV, let alone STIs. 

It seems there is still a place to implement the need to share knowledge. When asked if they are familiar with gonorrhea, only 22.8% of the 1,123 people evaluated in Madagascar and Nigeria answered “yes.” 

Their main sources of information came from friends or colleagues. But, in regions such as these, awareness should be enforced, experts recommend. By highlighting the impact of infections like STIs and HIV, we can reduce the gap of weakness and lack of knowledge and increase the quality of life.

References:

https://www.avert.org/global-hiv-and-aids-statistics

https://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0213224

https://www.nature.com/scitable/blog/viruses101/why_cant_mosquitos_transmit_hiv/

How COVID-19 caused a shortage of AIDS Medicine especially to Africa

How COVID-19 caused a shortage of AIDS Medicine especially to Africa Image

COVID-19 pandemic has changed the world in more ways than one. The mysterious virus has changed the way we work, interact with other people, spend our time, among other things. Yet another major consequence of COVID-19 is the impact on the treatment of AIDS across the globe, especially in Africa.

What’s going on?

The results of the WHO survey carried out ahead of the International AIDS Society’s biannual conference showed that 73 countries have warned they are facing stock-outs of antiretroviral (ARV) medicines. The shortages of AIDS medications are caused by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. Additionally, 24 countries reported having disruptions in the supply of ARV or critically low stock.

The above-mentioned survey followed a modeling exercise that revealed that a six-month disruption in access to AIDS medicines could double AIDS-related deaths in sub-Saharan Africa. What’s even worse, this awful scenario could occur in 2020 alone. The true impact of the shortage of AIDS medicines could be far more devastating in the years to come.

How does COVID-19 cause a shortage of AIDS medicine?

As seen above, the novel coronavirus disease pandemic has caused shortages of AIDS medications worldwide, particularly in Africa. But it’s impossible not to wonder why. It would be difficult to pinpoint one specific reason, but the shortage could be down to the failure of suppliers to deliver ARVs on time. 

With the rapid spread of COVID-19 across the globe many nations decided to close their borders. Lockdown was imposed on local and national levels. This has led to shutting down both land and air transport services. The delivery of ARVs wasn’t the exception. Yet another reason behind this current situation is the limited access to health services within the countries.

Progress is stalling

The World Health Organization explains that progress in the reduction of AIDS and HIV and death cases associated with them is stalling. The COVID-19 pandemic threatens to affect the fight against AIDS. Many scientists agree that the pandemic should not be an excuse to divert investment from HIV. 

The right to health means one disease shouldn’t be fought at the expense of the other. In other words, the treatment of HIV and AIDS should not be sacrificed for the sake of fighting COVID-19. This is particularly the case in Africa where people have limited access to medications and without proper treatments, the hard-work to keep AIDS under control could be jeopardized.

Bottom line

A recent survey showed that the COVID-19 pandemic caused shortages in AIDS medications. The disruptions in delivery and administration of ARVs could have drastic consequences. Health organizations should strive to keep their focus on AIDS while continuing their fight against the coronavirus pandemic.

References 

https://www.who.int/news-room/detail/06-07-2020-who-access-to-hiv-medicines-severely-impacted-by-covid-19-as-aids-response-stalls

How Does the New Coronavirus Affect the People with Tuberculosis And HIV?

How Does the New Coronavirus Affect the People with Tuberculosis And HIV?

Since the initial coronavirus outbreaks back in early December 2019, which happened in Wuhan, China, we keep learning more and more about this new and potentially deadly virus. And so, we have learned that we have been introduced to a cruel virus that does not hesitate when it comes to taking more and more lives. 

Today we are faced with a global pandemic. We have been instructed to self-isolate and stay home, avoiding any human-to-human contact as much as possible. These measurements of precaution are meant to protect us and the ones that we love, especially those who have been diagnosed with a chronic disease of any kind.

In today’s article, we will discuss the impact that the new coronavirus supposedly has on some of the most vulnerable ones – those who have tested positive for HIV/AIDS and/or have been diagnosed with tuberculosis. We will also discuss the socioeconomic impact that this virus has on countries such as Africa and India where tuberculosis and HIV/AIDS rates are supposedly the highest of them all. 

Tuberculosis and HIV patients exposed to a higher risk of the new coronavirus

Since it first appeared, COVID-19 has taken many people’s lives. This new virus managed to overflood, what we thought was, a well-functioning health system in many highly developed countries such as the USA, Italy, China, Russia, etc. While some of them have managed the situation better than others, nothing is over yet. We are yet to face the negative results that are to come from this whole experience. 

But the question is – Is the coronavirus has managed to have such a great impact on highly developed countries, what happens to countries such as India and Africa where we see poor socioeconomic conditions every day? And what happens to the most vulnerable people of them all – those living with HIV/AIDS and/or tuberculosis?

Africa has dangerously high sexually transmitted disease (STD) rates. But it is HIV/AIDS that interests us the most, as a chronic disease that has a significant impact on the body’s immune system, thus making it less possible for it to fight a dangerous virus such as the coronavirus. And then we also have India, where every day we see new patients diagnosed with tuberculosis – a chronic respiratory disease that interferes with the function of the respiratory system and weakens the immune system. 

Both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis create the perfect environment for the new coronavirus to take over the body, causing a more serious infection to happen, possibly even causing death. 

Multiple factors play their part in increasing HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis rates on a daily level. Having multiple sex partners, engaging in unprotected sex of any kind, drug and/or alcohol abuse, poverty, etc. are only some of the risk factors that cause the HIV/AIDS rates in Africa to increase. For tuberculosis, poverty, once again plays its part, which allows the infection to rapidly spread.

And then there is the problem of a co-infection, in which the patients struggle with both HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis. Although there is still no exact scientific data that has fully explored this topic, what we have learned so far is that we need to protect these vulnerable risk groups as much as possible.

For HIV/AIDS that would mean increasing awareness, frequent testing, and effective treatment with antiretroviral therapy. As far as we know, patients who receive proper treatment for HIV/AIDS and with that successfully control their symptoms, are not exposed to a bigger risk for COVID-19 as compared to the general population. However, that is not the case for those whose infection remains uncontrolled and so, we ought to control it as best as we can, using the therapy that we have at our disposal. 

The same rule applies to those struggling with tuberculosis. These patients need the required treatment as soon as possible, in a combination with self-isolating and social distancing to prevent being affected by the new coronavirus.    

Conclusion

We are faced with some hard times and conditions, some of us more than others. It is especially important for people diagnosed with a chronic disease, such as HIV/AIDS and tuberculosis to get tested and acquire the recommended treatment in time, as a prevention method for the new COVID-19. It is countries such as Africa and India, where the rates of these diseases are dangerously high, that need to implement frequent testing and act to raise awareness among the population to help protect them against the symptoms and possible death due to COVID-19.

References

https://www.who.int/westernpacific/emergencies/covid-19

https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/hiv-tuberculosis-coronavirus-high-risk-africa-south-asia/2020/04/08/78820db6-737d-11ea-ad9b-254ec99993bc_story.html

https://www.avert.org/professionals/hiv-around-world/sub-saharan-africa/overview

https://www.usaid.gov/global-health/health-areas/tuberculosis/technical-areas/tuberculosis-india

HIV/AIDS Survivors Remind Us of Using Fauci Guidelines as A Way Out of the COVID-19 Pandemic

HIV/AIDS Survivors Remind Us of Using Fauci’s Guidelines as A Way Out of the COVID-19 Pandemic Image

In late April 2020, Anthony Fauci was standing next to the president of the United States, Donald Trump, taking part in a White House briefing, discussing strategies that can potentially end the current COVID-19 pandemic, and help us get back to our normal lives as soon as possible. Many of you may not recognize the name Anthony Fauci, but that is not the case with the gay and bi community in the United States.

Who Is Anthony Fauci?

Anthony Fauci is an American physician and immunologist who has served the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases since the 1980s which is when the HIV/AIDS epidemic was happening all around the world. Faced with this new virus and the troubling disease that it was causing it, Anthony Fauci and his colleagues were struggling to find an answer to the origins of the virus itself as well as the potential treatment and cure. 

Today, HIV/AIDS survivors remind us of those times and warn us about the importance of taking that very same epidemic as an example of what we should and should not do today as we face yet another pandemic. Since the initial HIV/AIDS outbreak, the World Health Organization (WHO) reports nearly 32 million people have lost their lives due to HIV/AIDS, while 75 million in total have been infected. COVID-19 has appeared first in late December 2019 and has managed to infect 2 million people, while killing about 165,000. 

Many gay and bi men talk about the current pandemic and the similarities, but also differences, that can be easily spotted when compared to the one that has happened nearly 40 years ago. Much like HIV/AIDS, our behavior can help limit the spread of COVID-19, which is why it is very important to follow the provided guidelines that recommend social distancing and self-isolation similar to how changes in behavior have helped reduce the number of infected by HIV/AIDS.

In the United States, certain populations seem to be exposed to a greater risk of COVID-19, similar to how gay and bi men were once exposed to a bigger risk of AIDS/HIV. In the case of COVID-19, it is those in the African American community that are the most vulnerable. The most probable reason as to why that is is the limited access to health care resources that this population usually has. 

We Saw This Before But This Maybe Worse

The AIDS/HIV epidemic has sure taught us a lesson that we can use in these uncertain times. Back then, we managed to see what the result was of the lack of awareness, testing, and refusing to change our behavior. Now we get to rely on that information as well as new technology to help us manage the current situation the best that we can.

References

https://www.msn.com/en-us/news/politics/fauci-guided-us-through-aids-crisis-too-survivors-say-its-a-roadmap-for-coronavirus/ar-BB12PU0C

https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Anthony_Fauci

https://www.who.int/gho/hiv/en/

How Early Treatment In Aids (HIV) Prolong The Survival Years

Drug-Resistant HIV on the Rise, WHO Warns Image

Throughout the world, there are more than 37 million people currently living with HIV. The major problem with the significant prevalence of HIV is the fact that about 21% of people infected with the virus are unaware of their status. 

In Africa, there are some locations where almost 40% of the local population is infected with HIV. Botswana currently has the highest prevalence of HIV, with an estimated 39.9% of the adult population in the area being infected. The prevalence is also alarming in Zimbabwe, where an estimated 33.7% of the population is infected. 

Advances In Treatments For Aids

Antiretroviral therapy remains the most common treatment option that is provided to patients who are diagnosed with HIV infection. While these drugs can provide an effective approach to delaying the damage that Aids causes in the body, it is important to take note of the current challenges that are faced. 

This includes drug toxicity and the possibility of developing a resistance to the medication used as part of antiretroviral therapy. Additionally, the burden of having to take multiple doses of drugs each day can feel overwhelming. 

Some of the more recent advancements in Aids treatment options include:

  • Nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  • Non-nucleoside reverse transcriptase inhibitors
  • Protease inhibitors

Even though these drugs do offer a more potent effect on the virus that causes Aids, it is important to understand that initiating treatment at a later stage may still not yield effective results. 

The Importance Of Early Treatment

Treatments that are currently available for patients who have been infected with Aids have advanced to the point where the individual has presented an opportunity to experience a normal life. The use of antiretroviral therapy, along with some of the newer pharmaceutical drugs, can effectively prolong the survival years that a patient can expect when they initiate treatment. 

The major problem that is currently being faced with these treatments is the fact that a number of people with aids are unaware of the infection. This means the individual might only learn that they have been infected with the virus at a time when they start to develop complications associated with the infection. 

When a person learns of the infection at this stage of the infection, the treatment may not yield such a significant improvement in symptoms – and the extension of the individual’s survival years may not be as effective compared to implementing the treatment at an early age. 

The good news about early treatment is that testing for HIV has become significantly easier. Medical companies like Ghana Medicals present individuals access to accurate testing kits that can be used at home – offering a more private way of testing for the infection. 

Conclusion

Being infected with HIV can cause a number of adverse effects on the body and lead to an early death. While there are many advancements in aids treatment, early treatment is still essential to assist in providing the patient with an increase in survival years. The implementation of treatment means detecting the infection at an early stage – which is why routine testing for HIV is critical. 

References

https://www.avert.org/global-hiv-and-aids-statistics

http://www.bioafrica.net/subtype/subC/HIV_prevalence_rank.html

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3892621/

The Role of Fear in Proper HIV Testing and Treatment in African Men

A recent study has shed some light on the reasons behind the high HIV percentage within people living in Africa, especially within adult men. As it turns out, fear has a lot to do with why so many African men fail to ask for help for their HIV symptoms in time, risking their health and lives. In the following article, we will explore the results of the previously mentioned study.

How dangerous is HIV?

HIV stands for human immunodeficiency virus, which, as the term suggests, is a virus that damages the immune system. Although unprotected sexual intercourse is how HIV is most often transmitted, what a lot of people do not know is that HIV can be transmitted through bodily fluids such as blood, semen, vaginal and rectal fluids, and even breast milk. Unfortunately, there is no cure for HIV, but scientists all over the world are working on finding one.

In 2016, approximately 36.7 million people were living with HIV worldwide, with 2.1 million of those being children under the age of 15. Speaking about Africa, there have been an estimated 23.8 million people infected with HIV. To make matters worse, it has also been suggested that 91% of infected children with HIV are living in Africa. More than one million adults and children die because of AIDS each year in Africa alone.

How big is the role of fear in proper HIV testing and treatment among African men?

In the last couple of years, it has been one of the main tasks to make proper HIV testing and treatment available to all people living around the world, with a special focus on underserved areas, such as Africa. Luckily, there has been a lot of success in providing proper testing and treatment for almost all different STDs (sexually transmitted diseases), including HIV. Testing and treatment are usually free of charge to make it easier for people to get regular check-ups and maintain their good health.

But as it turns out, availability is not the biggest problem of them all, when it comes to STD and HIV testing and treatment. A study published in October 2019, has revealed that STD and especially HIV is often linked to shame and fear among men living in Cote d’Ivoire, Africa, which makes HIV a taboo, a topic that very few people are open to talk about. This results in a lack of action when it comes to getting proper check-ups and treating the condition so that a longer than expected life span can be possible for those infected with HIV.

The study revealed that 1 in 40 adult men are infected with HIV, with only one-quarter of them being aware of the disease that they have been carrying. And since HIV is such as stigmatized disease where these men live, it is harder for them to ask for help when they need it. These men have been worried about how HIV would impact their ability as a father, partner, and as a healthy individual who is able to provide for his family, maintaining a steady job, when they are unaware of the risks that are to come with leaving HIV untreated. 

Conclusion

With HIV still being a stigmatized disease in Africa, fewer and fewer African men are prepared to ask for help or a simple check-up, which results in a high number of HIV cases in Africa alone. Afraid of seeing a positive result and its impact that it can have on their lives, these men avoid getting tested and getting proper treatment afterward.

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

The Benefits of Self-Testing for HIV and Other Common STDs

STD Home Testing Offers An Affordable Way To Reduce The Incidence Of STDs

Thinking how big of a role have shame and fear in the continuous rise of STDs prevalence, researchers have found a way to make testing for the common STDs a bit easier and comfortable. With the invention of self-testing kits for HIV and other common STDs such as gonorrhea, syphilis, and herpes, people are now free to test themselves at the privacy of their own homes. 

How does self-testing for HIV and other common STDs work?

Self-testing is a process that allows the individual to get tested and later interpret the results at the privacy of their own home or whatever safe and private place that they choose. Currently, there are various brands of self-testing kits; however, they are all offering a somewhat similar form of self-testing kits. 

These kits usually come with instructions and all of the needed material to collect the required sample, which is most often a blood sample or a mouth swab. Today, we have self-testing kits that can detect the presence of gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HIV, and other common STDs. While using a self-testing kit to detect gonorrhea or syphilis requires the sample to be sent out to a laboratory that the manufacturer is collaborating with, HIV self-testing kits usually provide somewhat of accurate results in a few minutes.

There is the second, third, and fourth generation of HIV self-testing kits, with the fourth generation tests being able to detect a presence of recent infections, which is suggested to be the best option for a self-test. The HIV self-tests are detecting the presence of IgG and IgM antibodies, and with that, they are detecting the presence of HIV. 

All non-reactive self-test results are considered to be negative for the presence of HIV. However, all reactive (positive) results need to be confirmed later by visiting a healthcare professional and doing proper treatment. Despite that, self-tests are highly valuable in the detection of HIV.

The benefits of self-testing

The benefits of self-testing are clear. Having the option to get tested, not only for HIV but for other common STDs as well, while enjoying complete anonymity surely increases the number of individuals that decide to get tested and ask for help in the cases of a positive result. 

The CDC (Centers for Disease Control and Prevention) has conducted an evaluation of HIV self-testing among men who have sexual intercourse with other men. The international controlled trial has shown that men who have sex with other men and decide to get self-tested are more likely to get tested more frequently as compared to those who choose to visit the local healthcare facilities instead. 

The trial also showed that despite the fact that many have thought that having the ability to self-test at home can make individuals feel more comfortable to engage in risky sexual behaviors, self-testing did not increase this risk. Self-testing has helped many individuals to identify their HIV status and become aware of their HIV infection. 

Self-testing kits for the common STDs have been especially popular in Africa, where there is a high STDs prevalence, and sex and reproductive health are still stigmatized topics, often linked to feeling fear and shame of getting a positive result which only contributes to the rise of the STDs prevalence. The possibility to get tested and stay anonymous in the process plays a big role, encouraging more and more individuals to get tested and determine the state of their current reproductive health. With that, the rates of the common STDs, including HIV, are expected to decline over time.

Conclusion

Self-testing has played a big role in enhancing the quality of life and life-span in general of the many individuals that otherwise engage in risky sexual behaviors. With the ability to get tested for STDs at home and get the results in a matter of minutes, people are more likely to pay better attention to their reproductive health, especially in high burden countries such as Africa where talking about sex and reproductive health often causes feelings of shame and fear.

References

https://www.aidsmap.com/about-hiv/how-accurate-self-testing-hiv

https://hivstar.lshtm.ac.uk/publications/

https://www.cdc.gov/hiv/testing/self-testing.html

https://journals.plos.org/plosmedicine/article?id=10.1371/journal.pmed.1002512

The Use of Dual HIV/Syphilis Tests during Pregnancy

Risk Factors for a Syphilis Infection Among Pregnant Women in Asikuma Odoben Brakwa District, Ghana Image

Proper HIV and syphilis testing, as well as testing for any other STD, is important over each life period, but it earns a specific significance during the pregnancy period, especially when we are talking about HIV and syphilis that pose the risk of being transmitted from an infected mother to her baby. With the new guidelines determined by WHO (World Health Organization) for dual HIV/syphilis testing, we have found a new hope to see an improvement in the HIV and syphilis cases around the world, with a special focus on Africa. 

How can the use of dual HIV/Syphilis tests help support a healthy pregnancy?

HIV and syphilis are two highly dangerous sexually transmitted diseases during the nine months of pregnancy, not only because of their difficult symptoms but also because of the high risk of HIV and syphilis being transmitted from the infected mother to her child that is still growing and developing inside her womb. Unfortunately, HIV and syphilis are still quite common among pregnant women, especially among those living in Africa, which is one of the centuries where the highest population infected with HIV/syphilis has been living in the past couple of years. A study investigated the HIV prevalence by involving approximately 10,000 pregnant women and showed that of all, around 3% of them became infected with HIV during the course of their pregnancy.  

Left untreated and undetected, HIV and syphilis can lead to a number of health issues not only during pregnancy but also during childbirth as well. Transmitting HIV and/or syphilis is not the only health issue that we are talking about. These infections can lead to low birth weight, stillbirth, spontaneous abortus, and many other potential health risks as well.

Luckily, all pregnant women are supposed to undergo proper HIV testing at their first visit at their doctor’s office, as well as throughout the next nine months. When detected in its early stages, HIV can be efficiently controlled and treated, although not cured, so that the negative effect on the little one can be as minimalized as possible. With the use of antiretroviral therapy (ART), the risk of transmitting the disease during pregnancy, and later during childbirth and breastfeeding, can be significantly reduced, which will have a positive influence on both the health of the mother and the child.

But things are a bit different when it comes to testing for syphilis during pregnancy. While 60% of the pregnant women across Africa have been tested for HIV, less than 40% of them have been tested for syphilis. A study published in 2019 also revealed that 4% of all pregnant women had not been tested for HIV nor syphilis. Syphilis also poses great threats left untreated, which is why it is of vital importance that every pregnant woman gets tested for both HIV and syphilis at least once during her pregnancy, as WHO (World Health Organization) suggests.

The WHO has come to suggest a rather effective method that is thought to improve the numbers of cases in which proper testing for both HIV and syphilis has been done. The method that they recommend is a dual HIV/syphilis test that will be introduced as a part of the regular antenatal care for each pregnant woman. 

By introducing dual testing, WHO suggests that the cost of testing will decline while the number of women that are getting tested and potentially treated when needed, will be increasing, which is just the effect that we have been looking for so long now.

This can be especially beneficial for high burden countries such as Africa in which expenses play a big part in maintaining the good health of its population. With the reduced expenses rate, it will be more affordable to offer more and more women to get properly tested during their pregnancy.

Conclusion

With the new dual testing for HIV and syphilis suggested by the WHO, we are looking at a potential decline in new cases of HIV and syphilis in the future. This testing method for HIV/Syphilis will be of a high value for pregnant women since they are facing the risk of transmitting the infection to their child and with that struggling with devastating complications and a potential spread of the initial infection. 

References

http://www.aidsmap.com/news/jun-2015/many-south-african-women-become-infected-hiv-during-pregnancy-posing-high-risk

http://www.ncsddc.org/wp-content/uploads/2017/07/ncs_366_third_trimester_screening_brochure_page_by_page_mechanical_12-28-16.pdf

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/51254011_Optimal_time_on_HAART_for_prevention_of_mother-to-child_transmission_of_HIV

https://clinicaltrials.gov/ct2/show/NCT02454816

New HIV Testing Guidelines Released By WHO to Help Reduce HIV Prevalence and Improve Treatment Coverage

WHO Revise STD Treatment Guidelines As Threat Of Antibiotic Resistance Escalates Image

WHO is constantly working to provide better methods of eliminating the risk of the many dangerous STDs, especially in countries where the risk is at its peak, with Africa being one of them. Because of the high HIV rates, among other STDs in Africa, the WHO have decided on new guidelines that are believed to help reduce the HIV prevalence, not only in Africa but worldwide as well.

WHO has released new guidelines for HIV testing

WHO (World Health Organization) has released new guidelines for improved and more accurate HIV testing as well as better treatment coverage for people all around the world, but with a special focus on Africa where the HIV prevalence has especially high. In Africa alone, there have been approximately 23.8 million people living with HIV. About 91% of the children affected with HIV on an international level have been living in Africa.

Luckily, since things have been taken more seriously, from 2010 to 2018, we have seen a major decline in the HIV rates in Africa. From 2010 to 2018, the new HIV infection rate has declined by 28% in eastern and southern Africa. The decline has happened thanks to the expanded HIV treatment that has been made more available to the people living in this country, as well as thanks to the many campaigns that have aimed to increase their awareness. 

In the spirit of World AIDS Day on December 1 and the International Conference on AIDS and Sexually Transmitted Infections in Africa (ICASA 2019), WHO has released new guidelines that are meant to increase the effectiveness of HIV testing and treatment and accomplish an even greater decline in the HIV rates.

The new guidelines established by WHO now include:

  • Using three consecutive reactive tests to provide an accurate HIV diagnosis as compared to the two consecutive reactive tests that most high burden centuries, such as Africa, have been using so far. This new guideline has been thought to make a huge difference in providing a diagnosis that characterizes itself with maximum accuracy;
  • Extending the accessibility of self-tests, not only for HIV, but also for most STDs such as Gonorrhea, Syphilis, and Hepatitis. With the possibility of doing a self-test at home, there is a higher chance that the high-risk individuals will regularly do check-ups and ask for help in the presence of a positive result;
  • Using social media platforms to increase awareness about HIV and proper testing that can potentially save the lives of high-risk individuals;
  • Providing rapid tests as an alternative to the previously used laboratory tests that cost more money and take longer. Rapid tests, as the term suggests, can deliver accurate results in 2-3 weeks, while costing a lot less, making testing more affordable for the high burden centuries and their residents;
  • Using HIV/Syphilis dual testing that can eliminate the chance for a mother-to-child transmission to happen.

Conclusion

The new guidelines provided by WHO are designed to cause an even further decline in the HIV and STD rates among people worldwide, with a certain focus on Africa as one of the countries where the rates of the common STDs and HIV are especially high. It is believed that the new guidelines will make testing and treating the common STDs easier for the people living in high burden countries and with that, gradually reduce these rates.

References

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

New HIV Strain Discovered

Implant Protect Women From HIV Image

The World Health Organization (WHO) reports that Africa is the most affected region by HIV and AIDS in the world. Young women are particularly affected. The numbers show that in 2018, there were 20.6 million people with HIV in eastern and southern Africa and 5 million in western and central Africa. The wide prevalence of HIV is a serious problem on a global level, but even more so in African nations. The problem becomes even bigger with the fact the new strain of HIV has been discovered.

New strain of HIV

When the term HIV comes to mind, we think of a single virus that weakens the immune system and causes many other complications. But, the truth is that HIV has several subtypes and strains. Just like other viruses, this one can also evolve and mutate over time.

The new strain of HIV is not something scientists discover every day. In fact, for the first time in 19 years, a team of scientists has identified the new strain, which only confirms that fighting HIV is more vital than ever. Their findings, published in the Journal of the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, showed that the new strain is the subtype of HIV-1 Group M, subtype L. In other words, scientists discovered a mutation in Group M, the most common type of HIV and viruses from this group is responsible for AIDS crisis on a global level.

The discovery of a mutation seems scary. We immediately think of all sorts of unwanted and horrible scenarios, but there is also a silver lining. You see, early detection of the new strain allows scientists and doctors to contain and study the virus, develop new treatments, and anticipate other mutations. This could help prevent the virus from escalating uncontrollably. Without detection, that would not be possible. 

The new strain of HIV was discovered through the usage of next-generation sequencing technology that allowed scientists to build a whole genome at a lower cost and higher speed. Abbott Laboratories, which carried out the research, employed the new technology and upgraded it with new techniques to focus on a portion of the sample. That way, they were able to sequence and complete the genome fully. 

Preventing HIV

HIV is not a death sentence, and, when caught early, the symptoms can be managed as the current treatments are effective. But, the emphasis is placed on prevention through regular testing. Sexually active men and women, especially those with multiple sex partners, should get tested regularly, and thanks to at-home tests, this process is easier than ever. Other things to prevent HIV include using a condom, practicing safe sex, avoiding risky sex, staying away from engaging in sexual intercourse with multiple people.

Conclusion

Scientists have discovered HIV strain, a mutation in Group M, the most widespread type of this virus. The discovery of the new mutation allows scientists to work on the new treatment options and anticipate further strains. There is no reason to panic, scientists say. Make sure you test regularly and practice safe sex to decrease the risk of HIV. 

References 

https://www.afro.who.int/health-topics/hivaids

https://www.hiv.gov/hiv-basics/overview/data-and-trends/global-statistics

https://journals.lww.com/jaids/Abstract/publishahead/Complete_genome_sequence_of_CG_0018a_01.96307.aspx