Alarming: Estimated over 24,000 people living in Gambia with HIV, said NAS. What is HIV and what is AIDS?

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Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, is a virus that attacks the immune system. The immune system fights infections and diseases in a person’s body. Over time, HIV weakens a person’s immune system so it has a very hard time fighting diseases. HIV causes AIDS (Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome).

What exactly is AIDS?

AIDS is the name used to describe a number of potentially life-threatening infections and illnesses that happen when your immune system has been severely damaged by the HIV virus. While AIDS cannot be transmitted from 1 person to another, the HIV virus can.

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While AIDS cannot be transmitted from 1 person to another, the HIV virus can., There’s currently no cure for HIV, but there are very effective drug treatments that enable most people with the virus to live a long and healthy life. With an early diagnosis and effective treatments, most people with HIV will not develop any AIDS-related illnesses and will live a near-normal lifespan.

HIV has been forgotten due to a recent increase in COVID-19 cases and new variants., that 61% of those who know about their condition are currently receiving treatment and the country needs to improve access to testing and treatment., Most people refrain from getting tested for HIV due to the possible “stigma and discrimination” in society.

HIV and AIDS in Gambia

In 2018, the Gambia started implementing WHO’s recommendation to provide all people living with HIV with lifelong antiretroviral therapy (ART) regardless of clinical status or CD4 cell count. Between 2015 and 2020, impressive progress happened as new infections were cut by half and new infections among children were reduced by 75% (National AIDS Strategic Plan,2020-2025). All pregnant women attending antenatal clinics are routinely offered HIV tests, and all pregnant women living with HIV are eligible for ART (Option B+). Until the COVID-19 epidemic started, ART uptake had increased significantly. The country also adopted task shifting for HIV/AIDS and malaria—typically enabling nurses to dispense ART and capacitating community health workers to deliver a range

Over 38 million people were living with the human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) at the end of 2021, the majority of them in sub-Saharan Africa. While there is no cure for HIV, a combination of drugs, known as antiretrovirals (ARVs), enable people to live longer, healthier lives if taken regularly. The cost of first-line drugs is now cheaper than ever, but efforts are still needed to ensure everyone who is living with HIV receives treatment.

How is HIV transmitted?

The person-to-person spread of HIV is called HIV transmission. People can get or transmit HIV only through specific activities, such as sex or injection drug use. HIV can be transmitted only in certain body fluids from a person who has HIV:

Blood, semen, pre-seminal fluids, rectal fluids, vaginal fluids Breast milk.

HIV transmission is only possible if these fluids come in contact with a mucous membrane or damaged tissue or are directly injected into the bloodstream (from a needle or syringe). Mucous membranes are found inside the rectum, the vagina, the opening of the penis, and the mouth.

HIV can also spread from a woman with HIV to her child during pregnancy, childbirth (also called labor and delivery), or breastfeeding. This is called perinatal transmission of HIV. Perinatal transmission of HIV is also called mother-to-child transmission of HIV.

You cannot get HIV from casual contact with a person who has HIV, such as a handshake, a hug, or a closed-mouth kiss. And you cannot get HIV from contact with objects, such as toilet seats, doorknobs, or dishes used by a person who has HIV.

Symptoms of HIV infection

The symptoms of HIV and AIDS vary, depending on the phase of infection.

Primary infection (Acute HIV), Some people infected by HIV develop a flu-like illness within 2 to 4 weeks after the virus enters the body. This illness, known as primary (acute) HIV infection, may last for a few weeks., Fever, headache, muscle aches and joint pain. rash, sore throat and painful mouth sores, swollen lymph glands, mainly on the neck, diarrhea, weight loss, cough, night sweats. These symptoms can be so mild that you might not even notice them. However, the amount of virus in your bloodstream (viral load) is quite high at this time. As a result, the infection spreads more easily during primary infection than during the next stage.

In this stage of infection, HIV is still present in the body and in white blood cells. However, many people may not have any symptoms or infections during this time.

This stage can last for many years if you’re receiving antiretroviral therapy (ART). Some people develop more severe disease much sooner., As the virus continues to multiply and destroy your immune cells — the cells in your body that help fight off germs — you may develop mild infections or chronic signs and symptoms such as:, Fever, Fatigue, swollen lymph nodes — often one of the first signs of HIV infection, diarrhea, weight loss, oral yeast infection (thrush), shingles (herpes zoster), pneumonia.

Causes of HIV infection

HIV is found in the body fluids of an infected person. This includes semen, vaginal and anal fluids, blood and breast milk., It’s a fragile virus and does not survive outside the body for long., HIV cannot be transmitted through sweat, urine or saliva., The most common way of getting HIV in the UK is through having anal or vaginal sex without a condom.

Other ways of getting HIV include:

Sharing needles, syringes or other injecting equipment, transmission from mother to baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding, the chance of getting HIV through oral sex is very low and will be dependent on many things, such as whether you receive or give oral sex and the oral hygiene of the person giving the oral sex.

Diagnosing HIV

Seek medical advice as soon as possible if you think you might have been exposed to HIV. You can get tested in a number of places, including at a GP surgery, sexual health clinics and clinics run by charities. The only way to find out if you have HIV is to have an HIV test. This involves testing a sample of your blood or saliva for signs of the infection.

It’s important to be aware that:

Emergency anti-HIV medicine called post-exposure prophylaxis (PEP) may stop you becoming infected if started within 72 hours of possible exposure to the virus – it’s recommended that you start it as soon as possible, ideally within 24 hours, an early diagnosis means you can start treatment sooner, which can improve your chances of controlling the virus, reduce the risk of becoming more unwell and reduce the chance of passing the virus on to others

Both positive and negative HIV tests may need to be repeated 1 to 3 months after potential exposure to HIV infection (this is known as the window period), but you should not wait this long to seek help:

Clinics may offer a finger prick blood test, which can give you a result in minutes, but it may take up to a few days to get the results of a more detailed HIV test

home testing or home sampling kits are available to buy online or from pharmacies – depending on the type of test you use, your result will be available in a few minutes or a few days., If your first test suggests you have HIV, a further blood test will need to be carried out to confirm the result., If this is positive, you’ll be referred to a specialist HIV clinic for some more tests and a discussion about your treatment options.

Treatment for HIV, antiretroviral medicines are used to treat HIV. They work by stopping the virus replicating in the body, allowing the immune system to repair itself and preventing further damage., These come in the form of tablets, which need to be taken every day.

HIV can be diagnosed through blood or saliva testing. Available tests include: Antigen/antibody tests. These tests usually involve drawing blood from a vein. Antigens are substances on the HIV virus itself and are usually detectable — a positive test — in the blood within a few weeks after exposure to HIV.

Treatment

Currently, there’s no cure for HIV/AIDS. Once you have the infection, your body can’t get rid of it. However, there are many medications that can control HIV and prevent complications. These medications are called antiretroviral therapy (ART). Everyone diagnosed with HIV should be started on ART, regardless of their stage of infection or complications.

ART is usually a combination of two or more medications from several different drug classes. This approach has the best chance of lowering the amount of HIV in the blood. There are many ART options that combine multiple HIV medications into one pill, taken once daily.

Lifestyle and home remedies

Along with receiving medical treatment, it’s essential to take an active role in your own care. The following suggestions may help you stay healthy longer:

Eat healthy foods. Make sure you get enough nourishment. Fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein help keep you strong, give you more energy and support your immune system.

Avoid raw meat, eggs and more. Foodborne illnesses can be especially severe in people who are infected with HIV. Cook meat until it’s well done. Avoid unpasteurized dairy products, raw eggs and raw seafood such as oysters, sushi or sashimi.

Get the right vaccinations. These may prevent typical infections such as pneumonia and influenza. Your health care provider may also recommend other vaccinations, including for HPV, hepatitis A and hepatitis B. Inactivated vaccines are generally safe, but most vaccines with live viruses are not, due to your weakened immune system.

Take care with companion animals. Some animals may carry parasites that can cause infections in people who are HIV-positive. Cat feces can cause toxoplasmosis, reptiles can carry salmonella, and birds can carry cryptococcus or histoplasmosis. Wash hands thoroughly after handling pets or emptying the litter box.

Screening for HIV during pregnancy

During your pregnancy, you’ll be offered a blood test for 3 infectious diseases: hepatitis B, HIV and syphilis. This is part of routine antenatal screening, which is recommended for every pregnancy. You will usually be offered the blood test at your booking appointment with a midwife. The blood test needs to be done as early as possible in pregnancy, ideally by 10 weeks.

This is so treatment can be started early, if you need it, to reduce the risk of passing the infection on to your baby. If you already know you have HIV or hepatitis B, you’ll need early specialist appointments to plan your care in pregnancy. HIV weakens the immune system, making it difficult to fight off infections. If left untreated, it can lead to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome).

HIV is passed on in blood and other body fluids through sexual contact or infected needles., HIV can be passed on to your baby during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding if it’s not treated. HIV the risk of passing HIV to the baby can be greatly reduced by: specialist care and treatment, medicine, planned care for the birth, not breastfeeding, these reduce the risk of passing on HIV to the baby from 1 in 4 to less than 1 in 100., Your partner and any other children you have should also be offered a test

How can a person reduce the risk of getting HIV

Anyone can get HIV, but you can take steps to protect yourself from HIV.

Get tested for HIV. Talk to your partner about HIV testing and get tested before you have sex. Use the Get Tested locator from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) to find an HIV testing location near you.

Choose less risky sexual behaviors. HIV is mainly spread by having anal or vaginal sex without a condom or without taking medicines to prevent or treat HIV.

Use condoms every time you have sex. Read this fact sheet from CDC on how to use condoms correctly.

Limit your number of sexual partners. The more partners you have, the more likely you are to have a partner with poorly controlled HIV or to have a partner with a sexually transmitted disease (STD). Both of these factors can increase the risk of HIV.

Get tested and treated for STDs. Insist that your partners get tested and treated, too. Having an STD can increase your risk of getting HIV or spreading it to others.

Talk to nurse and doctor about pre-exposure prevention as HIV prevention option for people who do not have HIV but who are at risk of getting HIV. Do not inject drugs. But if you do, use only sterile drug injection equipment and water, and never share your equipment with others.

[email protected], send message only to Dr Azadeh WhatsApp on 002207774469 from 3PM to 6PM WORKING DAYS.

Dr. H. Azadeh MD, senior lecturer at the University of The Gambia, clinical director at Medicare.