HIV/AIDS

HIV

HIVWhat is it?

  • A virus that can only be passed from one person to another.
  • HIV attacks our immune system, which is what keeps us healthy. The average healthy person has anywhere between 500-1,500 white blood cells per teaspoon of blood.
  • When someone becomes infected with HIV, HIV will inject its genetic material into the white blood cells, turning them into HIV factories, producing as many copies of HIV as possible. One white blood cell can produce up to 5,000 copies of HIV.
  • As the amount of virus or viral load in someone’s body increases their white blood cell count will decrease. Those white blood cells are dying, and their immune system is very slowly weakening and depleting.
  • HIV cannot survive outside of the body or in the presence of oxygen. Once HIV is exposed to oxygen it will die within 10-15 seconds.
  • HIV is a two way transfer. This means that a man can transmit it to a women, a women can transmit it to a man, a man can transmit it to another man, and a woman could potentially transmit it to another woman, however that is very rare.

How do you get it?

  • HIV lives in a number of bodily fluids. It lives in saliva, sweat, feces, urine, tears, blood, semen, vaginal fluid, breast milk and blood. However, only 4 of those fluids transmit the virus.
  • Blood
    • There are 2 ways we see people transmit HIV through blood.
      • Injection Drug Use: An injection drug user will use syringes, also known as needles. Syringes are hollow on the inside. On the inside of those syringes are what we call microscopic serrations, tiny little walls inside the syringe. When someone pierces their skin with a syringe blood will get trapped behind those microscopic serrations and HIV can live inside of the needle for up to 4 weeks. Oxygen molecules are too big to get inside of the needle to kill off the HIV. You cannot burn or boil a needle to kill off the HIV virus. You would have to burn or boil it to a point where the needle is melted. Well, if the needle is melted it is no longer good, so injection drug users who share needles with one another, this is how we see them transmit HIV
      • Tattoos: Most people believe that it is the tattoo needle that is the risk for HIV. However, it is the ink that we worry about. Tattoo needles are solid, blood cannot get trapped inside of them. When someone goes to get a tattoo and the tattoo artist is putting the ink into their skin, their skin is going to open up and more likely than not it is going to bleed. That blood is now on that tattoo needle and the artist is going back and forth from their skin to the caps of ink. Now the blood is inside the ink, not being exposed to oxygen and HIV can live in that ink for up to 4 weeks. We typically only see HIV transmitted through unprofessional tattoos. An unprofessional tattoo is any tattoo that is not done in a licensed facility. Even if the person who is giving the tattoo has their license, if you are not in a shop it is considered unprofessional. What we are seeing happening is tattoo artists are cutting corners to save themselves some money, because tattoo needles and ink are very expensive. Instead of throwing away used ink like they are supposed to, some tattoo artists will pour used ink back into the original bottle. When you go to a tattoo shop to get a tattoo you want to make sure that the artist opens up all equipment in front of you, this way you know everything is brand new. If you decide to get a tattoo outside of a licensed facility simply buy your own ink and needle, this way you know it has never been used on anybody else.
  • Seminal and Vaginal Fluid
    • The only way you are going to come into contact with either one of these fluids is through unprotected sex. Unprotected sex is sex without a condom. There are three types of sex–anal, vaginal and oral. All three types come with their own risks.
      • Anal sex is the riskiest type of sex, simply because of the anatomy of the body. The rectal tissues are extremely thin and fragile, there are a lot of blood vessels and there is a lot of blood flow. Any time there is anal penetration, microtears (tiny tears inside the anus) are going to happen because the rectum does not stretch. The rectum also does not self-lubricate, therefore has a high absorption rate. As soon as it comes into contact with any fluids, it will absorb them almost immediately. When microtears happen, blood is likely to be present. If you have unprotected anal sex you expose yourself to seminal fluid and blood.
      • Vaginal Sex is a moderate to high risk. Again, simply because of the anatomy of the body. The vagina is on the inside of the body and there is simply more surface area and tissue to infect. Unlike the rectum, the vagina does self-lubricate, however, it also has a very high absorption rate, so it will almost immediately absorb any fluids it comes into contact with. If you have unprotected vaginal sex you expose yourself to blood, seminal and vaginal fluid.
      • Oral sex is a very low risk for the transmission for HIV. Our mouths and esophagus are mucus membranes. They are built and meant to take in solids and liquids. If someone were to swallow seminal or vaginal fluid, our stomach acids are so strong that HIV would not be able to survive. However, if someone were to have a cut or sore in their mouth, this could pose a different risk. This would allow for a direct pathway for HIV to get into the blood.
  • Breast Milk
    • When a woman is pregnant, she will go through prenatal care. During her prenatal care, her doctor will test her for HIV in her first and her third trimester. If at any point in time she is to test positive for HIV, she will then be put on HIV medication. When it comes time to give birth, whether the woman has a natural birth or has to have a C-section will all depend on her viral load (the amount of virus in her body at that time). If her viral load is too high, the doctor will likely opt to have a C-section, because during a C-section the baby would only come into contact with blood. If the woman’s viral load is low enough the doctor will allow for her to have a natural birth. During a natural birth the baby comes into contact with blood as well as vaginal fluid. Once the woman gives birth, she is not allowed to breast feed and the reason is, during breast feeding, the area around the nipple can dry and crack, blood particles may be present. We may not always see those blood particles but it doesn’t mean that they are not there. If those blood particles are to mix in with the breast milk and the baby is to drink it, the baby could become infected, so the woman is simply today to use formula.

What are the symptoms?

  • HIV has no signs or symptoms.
  • The only way someone is to know they have become infected is if they are to get tested.
  • If left untreated, HIV can result in death.

Treatment & Prevention

  • Once someone has tested HIV+ they will need to get on medication.
  • HIV effects everyone differently therefore treatment will vary for each individual person. Some people can take as little as 1 pill a day, others can take more.
  • Once someone who is HIV+ is on medication it will be imperative that they take their medication at the same time every day and never miss a dose. If they are to miss a dose that medication may no longer be good for them in the future.
  • There are a number of ways to prevent yourself from becoming infected with HIV.
    • Wearing a condom, the whole time, every time, and correctly.
    • Not having unprotected sex with multiple people.
    • Not sharing syringes
    • Not getting unprofessional tattoos

AIDS

What is it?

  • AIDS is a diagnosis given to HIV+ individuals who meets one of 2 criteria.

How do you get it?

  • If at any point in time, someone who is HIV+ white blood cell count is to drop below 200 per teaspoon of blood, they will then be diagnosed with AIDS.
  • The second way is if someone who is HIV+ is to get one of 26 opportunistic infections. These are infections that we see very common in individuals who have weakened immune systems.

What are the symptoms?

  • Symptoms will vary depending on what opportunistic infection the individual has.

Treatment & Prevention

  • Treatment and Prevention for AIDS can be very tricky. AIDS effects every person differently.
  • HIV+ individuals AIDS treatment will vary depending on what opportunistic infection they have.
  • To prevent the progression to an AIDS diagnosis, an HIV+ individual must take their medication at the same time, every day. If they are to miss a dose that medication may no longer be good for them.