Highlight on Health - December 2013
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV)
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. A person who has the virus is considered HIV-positive. Once a person is positive, he/she is always positive. If the virus is left untreated an HIV-positive individual will likely progress to having AIDS.
- AIDS =Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or Acquired Immuno-Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a set of symptoms and infections resulting from the damage to the human immune system caused by the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). This condition progressively reduces the effectiveness of the immune system and leaves individuals susceptible to opportunistic infection and tumors. HIV is transmitted through direct contact of a mucous membrane or the bloodstream with a bodily fluid containing HIV. (i.e. blood, semen, vaginal fluid pre-seminal fluid, and breast milk) This transmission can involve anal, oral, and vaginal sex, contaminated hypodermic needles, and between mother and baby during pregnancy, child birth, or breastfeeding. Transmission can happen by any other exposure to all the above bodily fluids.
- Since the introduction of highly effective antiretroviral drugs in 1995, treatment has drastically improved survival rates. Treatment can slow the course of the disease but currently there is no vaccine or cure.
- In the absence of these therapies the average time of progression from HIV Infection to AIDS is 9-10 years. On the average, survival time after developing AIDS is only 9.2 months.
- The Center for Disease Control (CDC) now recommends routine screening for all persons 13-64 years of age. It is believed this will reduce the stigma associated with testing and help identify those who are infected and get them into treatment. The latest studies show that HIV positive individuals who are compliant with their treatment regimens are 96 % less likely to transmit the virus to others.
- The CDC further recommends all pregnant women to be tested in their first and third trimesters, thus beginning treatment to reduce perinatal transmission.
- Sex and needle sharing are the two most common ways of transmission. Vaginal, anal, and oral sex put you at very high risk. The use of latex condoms with every sex act, or choosing to have sex with one uninfected partner who only has sex with you, can reduce your risk. However, only abstinence is a risk free choice. Sharing needles for drugs, steroids, vitamins, tattoos, or body piercing are also high risk behaviors. Gay, bisexual, and MSM (men who have sex with men) remain the population most severely affected by HIV. (CDC)
- Remember, HIV infection is completely preventable.
- Each year, at your annual physical exam, you should get an HIV test. If your physician does not offer testing, you can visit your local Health Department, where testing is free and strictly confidential. Call for an appointment today!
- The CDC estimates that 1.2 million people in the U.S. are living with HIV infection. One in five (20%) of those people are unaware of their infection. Meanwhile, new infections continue with approximately 50,000 Americans becoming infected with HIV each year. Nearly 619,400 people with AIDS in the U.S. have died since the epidemic began. According to the N.C. Division of Public Health and the NCDHHS 2011 HIV/STD surveillance report, as of December 31, 2011 the estimated number of living HIV disease cases diagnosed and reported in N.C. was 26,168. There have been 1563 new diagnoses of HIV infection and 830 new diagnoses of AIDS reported in N.C. The top five counties with highest rates were Edgecombe, Mecklenburg, Wilson, Durham, and Cumberland. MSM (men who have sex with men) was the principle risk factor indicated in 59% of total cases in N.C.
For more information about HIV/AIDS in North Carolina, go to http://epi.publichealth.nc.gov/.