HIV Vaccine awareness day is celebrated across the world to pay tribute to and recognize the endless efforts of volunteers, health professionals, community members, and scientists. The day is observed on May 18 every year also to spread awareness about the vaccine research and to educate its importance to the people all around the world. It is essential to understand that an effective and preventive vaccine is the only solution to put a stopper on this fatal disease.
This time, the discussion of HIV Vaccine awareness day is more crucial than any other time before. Everyone around the world has accepted the importance of vaccines due to the global surge of the COVID-19 pandemic. This is because people who never have been relying upon or accepting the need for the vaccines are not only looking forward to it, but also they are more inclined to recommend them to their loved ones.
According to the data shared on June 2021, there were 1.2 million people with HIV positive living in the US, which adds up to 35,000 each year. Many AIDS patients die at the beginning of diagnosis, and the number of deaths grows because of HIV each year.
Considering these statistics, the need for vaccines for surging diseases like HIV and COVID is widely anticipated to be used until the end of the pandemic. Because the sustainable and durable end to these chronic and long-term diseases can only be possible through the vaccine.
HVAD is a day to recognize and realize the infinite support and contributions of researchers and participants. Not only this but to explain how the foundation of developing HIV vaccines sped up the process of developing COVID-19 vaccines. With that in mind, let us all join hands to spread the awareness of HIV and the preventive measures.
Basic Facts of HIV and AIDS
What is HIV?
HIV is an internationally known retrovirus that infects the immune system and gradually destroys the entire function. This is why it is known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus – HIV. When infections with this virus progress, it leads to immune depletion, which evidently results in immunodeficiency.
Because of the immunodeficiency, the subject’s immune system no longer plays its role in preventing the body from contact with infections and viruses. As a result, people with immunodeficiency tend to become more vulnerable to various types of cancers and viruses. These diseases when ascend in the event of immunodeficiency are referred to as opportunistic infections.
What is AIDS?
Acquired immunodeficiency syndrome – AIDS describes the assortment of infections and symptoms affected due to acquired immunodeficiency. The lingering infections and symptoms of immunodeficiency often progress from HIV infections to AIDS.
Symptoms of HIV
Many times it happens that people affected with HIV do not know that they are affected by the infection until they get severe symptoms. When the infection leads to the level of seroconversion, the infected patients begin to feel glandular fever which means there will be enlarged lymph nodes, rash, joint pains, and fever.
Seroconversion takes part in developing HIV antibodies which take hardly two to three months once the infection affects the person. However, HIV-infected subjects do not show any symptoms in the initial days of infection. Although, the infected person is infectious and can easily transmit the virus to the other person. The only way to find out if someone has been affected by the virus is to go through an HIV test.
Infections related to HIV are transmissible and cause gradual depletion of the immune system. This weakened immune system leads to other serious cancers and infections such as AIDS.
When and how does a person get AIDS?
The highest level of HIV infection is known as AIDS. People affected with the HIV infection develop the signs and symptoms of AIDS if not treated within eight to ten years.
As mentioned, AIDS is the highest level of infectious disease HIV. Therefore, it can be identified with specific groups of infections. For instance, HIV Stage I infection is asymptomatic, and because it’s the initial stage, it is not recognized as AIDS. Stage II, however, involves recurrent respiratory infections and minor mucocutaneous manifestations. Stage III HIV explains the condition where the infected person remains in a diarrheic state for more than a month. Along with diarrhea, the symptoms include pulmonary tuberculosis and severe bacterial infection. Stage IV HIV indicates severe health conditions, which include esophagus candidiasis, Brain toxoplasmosis, lung infections or bronchi, trachea, and Kaposi’s sarcoma.
Stages of HIV are taken as the initial indications of AIDS. Many diseases and health conditions in the stages of HIV are because of opportunistic infections, which can be treated at the initial stages of healthy people.
How quickly and easily do people get affected with HIV developing AIDS?
The length for which someone is affected by HIV varies between individuals. An estimated time of developing HIV infections to AIDS is somewhere between ten and fifteen years, and that too depends on the immune system of the individuals. The time between HIV infections turning into AIDS can be both shorter and longer. To prevent the infectious progression to AIDS, antiretroviral therapy should be practiced to decrease the load on the immune system of the infectious subject.
Where can HIV be found, and how is it transmitted?
Human immunodeficiency virus can be found mainly in the fluids of the body, such as semen, blood, vaginal fluids, and breast milk.
HIV can be easily transmitted through blood infusion, drug injections, penetrative sex activities (vaginal or anal), and using contaminated needles in healthcare settings. HIV can also be easily transmitted between the mother and the infant during childbirth, in the womb (during pregnancy), and through breastfeeding.
Sexual transmission of HIV
HIV transmission through penetrative sex dramatically depends on how the sex is performed. However, it is not efficiently transmitted through one-time penetrative vaginal sex. The chances of receiving HIV through vaginal sex are pretty low.
However, the transmission of HIV by anal sex tends to affect the receiver ten times more than vaginal sex. Hence, if an untreated HIV-affected person has unprotected anal sex, he/she can transmit infections like ulcers with discharge at a higher rate.
On the other hand, oral sex has quite a low rate than any other type of sex of transmitting HIV between couples.
These transmissible scenarios are for those situations where the infectious person is left untreated. Suppose a person with HIV takes effective antiretroviral therapy and deals with the suppressed viral contagious load. In that case, HIV infections are not likely transmitted.
Transmission through needles and syringes
Using syringes and needles in a healthcare setting or at home invites various health complications, not just HIV. The risks of transfusion of infections like HIV can be minimized if new syringes are used, and the reusable needles or syringes are sterilized before use. HIV numbers can be lowered if healthcare professionals follow the international healthcare guidelines in a healthcare setting.
HIV mother to child transmission
Unlike other infections, HIV is likely to transmit to the child during labor, delivery, pregnancy, and even through breastfeeding. Typically, there’s a 30% chance for the child to get HIV from the mother during, between, or after pregnancy. The frequency of the viral load at the child’s birth identifies the chances of transmitting HIV to the child.
If not at the time of birth, the infant can also get HIV infections through breastfeeding. However, if a mother undergoes effective antiretroviral therapy during pregnancy or breastfeeding, it is less likely for a child to get affected.
HIV through blood transfusion
There is a 90% risk of HIV transmission through infected blood transfusion or infected blood products. However, this can be prevented by ensuring safe and adequate procedures to transfuse infected blood. International blood transfusion safety standards include screening the donated blood prior to saturating it with someone to identify bloodborne pathogens and infections like HIV.
- Why has HIV Vaccine awareness day been celebrated as an international event?
HIV Vaccine awareness day is observed to recognize the efforts of the community helpers, researchers, healthcare professionals, and scientists for their uncalculated efforts in developing HIV vaccines and other prevention measures.
- What are the chances of HIV transmission through tattooing and body piercing?
Suppose the needles are contaminated and have not been sterilized before injecting for either piercing or tattooing. In that case, there’s a chance of transmitting HIV. Instruments that work when they are penetrated through the skin should not be reused. They must be discarded immediately, and reusable instruments should be sterilized.
- What are the chances of HIV transmission through kissing?
HIV transmission through kissing has not been reported. There’s no risk of HIV transmission through lip kissing as the virus does not spread through saliva.
- How can someone protect himself from HIV?
Prevention of HIV can be made possible through;
- Non-penetrative sex
- Monogamous relation of partners
- Correct use of condoms
- Ensuring the blood transfusion equipment and products, are HIV tested
- Using new and sterilized medical instruments every time.
- Taking effective antiretroviral therapy timely to prevent the transmission of HIV infection.