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Understanding HIV


Image is from CDC

A Controversial Disease

The Human Immunodeficiency Virus, HIV, is at the root of AIDS; Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome. It’s exact origins remain unknown, and most have heard quite a few stories which attempt explanation. Some think the disease came from certain relations between humans and primates, others attribute the disease to ingestion of bushmeat–which is to say: the meat of monkeys infected with the disease. How it crossed from the animal kingdom to the human kingdom is a topic that definitely ignites controversy. What is known is that it isn’t the only virus of its type in existence. FIV, or the Feline Immunodeficiency Virus, is essentially the same thing; just in cats.

Politically Incorrect History

What’s sure is that the condition was originally noticed in primarily homosexual communities in the United States. This was so much the case that the original name of the disease was GRID, or Gay-Related Immunodeficiency. The press, when this disease began prominently sweeping through such communities, coined a more politically-correct term, “4H” disease. This referred to heroin-users, homosexuals, hemophiliacs, and Haitians. But as the disease spread, it was discovered it actually affected more communities. By 1982, the term “AIDS” had been coined.

The Difference Between HIV and AIDS

HIV is the retrovirus which makes the body susceptible to full-on AIDS, which occurs when the immune system begins to shut down. There is quite a bit of literature relating to the exact biological nature which predicates this shut-down. The abbreviated version is: when HIV is contracted, without medication, life expectancy is anywhere from 9 to 11 years; though in some cases, where health is already not nearly so good as it ought to be, this process can be sped up. Eventually, there’s a breaking point, and the body’s immune system begins to implode as AIDS takes the torch HIV brought into the arena.

How Is HIV Transmitted?

It’s not a kissing disease, it’s not a hugging disease, you’re not going to get HIV sharing food with an infected individual, giving them a handshake, or even going swimming. Even if an HIV-infected individual gets their blood on you, you still won’t contract it–unless you also have an open, bleeding sore and prolonged exposure. Even in this scenario, while contraction is possible, it’s unlikely. Primarily, HIV is spread through blood, semen, pre-ejaculate, breast milk, and vaginal fluid. Hemophiliacs and Haitians acquired the disease through blood transfusions in hospitals “behind the times” who had received donations from previously infected individuals. Direct transfusion was what caused the primacy of these infections. Meanwhile, heroin users acquire the condition by sharing needles with infected individuals, and the sexual acts involved in homosexuality are what spread it in that community.

Treating HIV

A complex cocktail of medicines is used to treat this adverse infection. ART is the primary method; this stands for Anti-Retroviral Therapy. There is no cure as yet, but this is a means of control. What’s involved is ingestion of a medical combination. This must be done exactly as proscribed by a reputable HIV doctor. What the medicines do is prevent replication of HIV, reducing how much is in your body. The less it is plaguing your immune system, the harder your immune system can fight, keeping cancers and infections at bay. Additionally, this reduces infected individuals’ risk of spreading the condition to non-infected individuals. Left untreated, HIV always leads to AIDS; meaning taking the ART approach is always recommendable. Some of the medicines can have strange side-effects, however, which may require preparation beforehand. HIV can’t be cured yet, but it is treatable. Magic Johnson’s been living with the condition since 1991.

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