What causes HIV?
HIV/AIDS is an acquired immunodeficiency disease which is caused by a virus that is transmitted when there is a transfer of bodily fluids from an infected person. The most common forms of transmission are through having unprotected sex and the sharing of needles with an infected person; the people most at risk of this are injection drug users and sex workers. HIV can also be transmitted through pregnancy and breastfeeding but not through the air, water or insect bites.
Types of HIV
There are two types of the HIV virus, we have HIV-1 and HIV-2, HIV-1 is the most common in the world, it is the most virulent. HIV- is mainly found in West Africa and is less virulent.
How HIV attacks the Body
The HIV has three enzymes, reverse transcriptase, integrase, and Protease. HIV is a retrovirus, it uses RNA as genetic material and after infecting the host. It uses Reverse transcriptase to convert the RNA genetic material into DNA. So when the cell divides the HIV virus divides with it, normal DNA replication has proofreading ability that is designed to stop mutation. When the HIV reverse transcribes in your DNA the cells loses that ability to proofread, so when the cells together with HIV virus replicate different varieties of the virus are produced. This is why it is currently impossible to formulate medications that deal with a specific type of HIV virus in the body. This is why the medications (ARVs) or anti-retrovirus drugs work by inhibiting the function of the enzymes.
Imagine being attacked by aliens, and the first thing is to do is attack the military and police by infecting them with Gastroenteritis. Well, this is cunning nature of the HIV virus it first attacks the CD4 cells, which are the only cells in the body that have the receptor to for the HIV virus. CD4 cells are the body’s switchboard when it comes to the immune system; antigens have to be detected by them in order for the immune system to be activated. Once they have been detected by the CD4 cells, the CD4 cells then help the B cells make antibodies, recruit macrophages which eat up cellular debris, basophils, and neutrophils to the site of infection. This is why when you go HIV test they check your CDT count, the normal range is between 500-1500. In HIV infected persons the count can drop to 200, but the good news is that with aggressive anti-retrovirus dru
Why is it hard to treat HIV
Firstly, the body cannot keep up with the rapid replication of the HIV virus, in the end, the immune system becomes overwhelmed When this happens HIV will progress to AIDS. The reduction in the immune system will lead to an individual developing strange cancers like Kaposi’s Sarcomas. Some people experience relentless fatigue and weight loss known as wasting syndrome. Once the HIV has progressed to AIDS the survival rate is 3 years. I should point out that while cases of AIDS are few, HIV still remains a public health issue.
- HIV continues to be a major public health issue, as of 2016 about 37.7 million people are living with HIV.
- 1.8 million of the 37.7 million are children
- 30% do not know that they are infected with the virus
- Since the start of the epidemic 78 million people have been infected with HIV, of that number 35 million have died
- The majority of people that are infected with the virus live in middle to low-income countries
- In Zambia, 1.2 million people live with HIV, and as of 2016 59,000 new cases have been reported and 21,000 Aids-related deaths
- In South Africa, 7.1 million are living with HIV, 270,000 new cases of infection in 2017 and 110,000 AIDS-related deaths
A brand new type of HIV vaccine will move to phase II after trials during the first phase showed that it is safe to use in humans. The new vaccine will be tested for its effectiveness in prevention of the disease on 600 people in North America. Team leader of the trial Chil-Yong Kang said: “before people get too excited, phase I trials were only set up to show that the vaccine was tolerated well in the human body, they did not test to see whether it can prevent people from getting HIV”. But the very fact that they have to phase II is trial should be cause for optimism. Currently, condoms, abstinence, and widespread screening and education remain the only way we can prevent people from contracting HIV/AIDS, especially in countries where HIV/AIDS is a public health issue.