This week, I am going to talk about what is arguably the most pressing virus that humans are facing today, not entirely because of its lethality, but because of its widespread effects and absence of a cure. Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has currently infected 37 million individuals worldwide. Shockingly, it is estimated that only 54% of those who are infected with HIV are aware of their infection, meaning that roughly 46% of those infected are unaware that their bodies are fighting a potentially life-threatening diseases. Below, I want to present some facts about HIV:
- It is estimated that there will be roughly 2 million new HIV infections every year
- HIV is a virus that infects a person’s immune system, particularly their CD4 T cells
- While the immune system is able to fight off most pathogens without a problem, HIV mutates so quickly in the body that the immune system is unable to effectively combat it
- 2-4 weeks after being infected with HIV, a person may experience any of the following symptoms: fever, chills, rash, night sweats, muscle aches, fatigue, swollen lymph nodes, and mouth ulcers. Not all people will show these symptoms, and some people may not show symptoms at all for over 10 years.
- After a certain amount of time, these symptoms will subside. When the symptoms subside, the virus is lying dormant in the body. During this time, the virus is being suppressed by the body’s immune system, but it is constantly evolving and mutating to find ways to break free.
- Eventually, due to the chronic infection, the body’s immune system begins to lose its ability to hold back the virus and the CD4 T cells begin to die off. At this time, the virus rises in its numbers and the patient will progress to AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome). When a patient has AIDS, they experience many negative symptoms, and eventually succumb to an opportunistic infection because the body’s immune system has been severely degraded.
- There is no cure for HIV, and no vaccine to prevent people from contracting it. Fortunately, we have Anti-Retroviral Therapies (ART’s) which can greatly prolong an infected individual’s life by helping the immune system suppress the virus. These treatments, while effective, are also extremely expensive, adding a financial burden to those who are infected.
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