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HIV Infection

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is caused by retroviruses HIV-1 and HIV-2, which induce the progressive destruction of CD4+ T cells. The disease follows a progressive course and culminates in life-threatening acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).

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Presentation

According to the classification system used by the World Health Organization, there are four hierarchical clinical stages of HIV infections, ranging from stage 1 (asymptomatic) to stage 4 (AIDS). Patients showing at least one symptom attributed to a higher stage are assigned this higher stage. Also, they cannot be re-assigned a lower stage if symptoms are relieved by adequate treatment. This classification is to be understood as a one-way street and includes the following stages [1] [2]:

Of note, the clinical stages defined for children infected with HIV differ from those described above [2]. Additional symptoms commonly observed in pediatric patients comprise persistent hepatosplenomegaly, extensive molluscum contagiosum, extensive wart virus infection, and linear gingival erythema during stage 2 of an HIV infection, as well symptomatic lymphoid interstitial pneumonitis and chronic HIV-associated lung disease, including bronchiectasis, during stage 3. Besides the majority of the aforementioned conditions, AIDS-defining illnesses to be observed in children include unexplained severe wasting, stunting, or severe malnutrition that don't respond to standard therapy. Recurrent severe bacterial infections, which are attributed to stage 3 in adult patients, are considered AIDS-defining in children.

In some cases, the aforedescribed classical course of HIV infections may be preceded by symptoms of acute HIV infection [3]. During the first 6 to 12 weeks after primary exposure to the pathogen, the virus aggressively replicates in the lymphoid tissues. This is associated with high viral loads and declining lymphocyte counts. Non-specific, constitutional symptoms may manifest before the beginning of clinical latency. They may be described as flu- or mononucleosis-like symptoms [4].

Generalized Lymphadenopathy
  • Persistent Generalized Lymphadenopathy (PGL) There is loss of normal lymph node architecture as the immune system fails with emergence from latency of HIV infection. It is marked by development of generalized lymphadenopathy.[library.med.utah.edu]
  • Patients are asymptomatic or may have persistent generalized lymphadenopathy. They may remain in this stage for many years. Stage 2. This stage is also referred to as the mildly symptomatic stage.[symptoma.com]
  • Generalized lymphadenopathy in homosexual men. Ann Intern Med 1983; 99:585-91. 156. Nokta MA, Li XD, Nichols J, Pou A, Asmuth D, Pollard RB.[hivinsite.ucsf.edu]
  • In some patients, persistent generalized lymphadenopathy is an outward sign of infection. During this time, the viral load, if untreated, tends to persist at a relatively steady state, but the CD4 T-cell count steadily declines.[emedicine.medscape.com]
Fever
  • The antibiotics were stopped and after 48 hours no fever was observed until the day of discharge. Piperacillin/tazobactam can induce fever in patients with cystic fibrosis and in patients with other conditions.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • They include: Headache Diarrhea Nausea and vomiting Fatigue Aching muscles Sore throat Swollen lymph nodes A red rash that doesn't itch, usually on your torso Fever Doctors can now prevent HIV from taking hold in your body if they act quickly.[webmd.com]
Weight Loss
  • If there is a further decline in immune function, more serious symptoms and signs can develop, such as dementia and cognitive changes, severe weight loss, wasting syndrome, opportunistic infections, and malignant tumors.[medicinenet.com]
  • Advertisement 8 of 17 Getty Images Weight loss Once called "AIDS wasting," weight loss is a sign of more advanced illness and could be due in part to severe diarrhea.[health.com]
  • After a few years, other symptoms start, including: diarrhea weight loss increased number of infections infections that are more severe than is typical Without treatment, HIV can lead to a very weakened immune system and progress to AIDS.[kidshealth.org]
Fatigue
  • Alisa Le For years, I was plagued by chronic yeast infections, including but not limited to: rashes, weight gain, insomnia, acne, constipation, chronic fatigue, depression, sensitivity to chemicals, you name it.[slideshare.net]
  • Ron had tested HIV positive 25 years before feeling so tired; fatigue during acute, or newly contracted, HIV might not be so obvious.[health.com]
  • These symptoms can include recurrent infections, including fungal infection of the mouth ( oral thrush ) or vagina, rashes, fungal infections of the nails, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, leukoplakia of the tongue, and weight loss.[medicinenet.com]
  • Those who do have symptoms generally experience symptoms similar to the common cold or flu: fever, fatigue, and, often, rash. Other common symptoms can include headache, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat.[hivinsite.ucsf.edu]
Weakness
  • A 35 year-old homosexual man presented with a 5-week history of headaches followed by a 3-week history of horizontal diplopia, limb weakness and right 6th cranial nerve palsy.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Advertisement 16 of 17 Getty Images Tingling and weakness Late HIV can also cause numbness and tingling in the hands and feet. This is called peripheral neuropathy, which also occurs in people with uncontrolled diabetes.[health.com]
  • "Young people are more vulnerable to acquiring HIV, yet, they have a weak voice and much less bargaining power."[aljazeera.com]
  • It is associated with an unexplained loss of 10% or more of normal body weight plus chronic diarrhea (30 days or more) or chronic weakness with fever (30 days or more).[medbroadcast.com]
Candidiasis
  • […] virus infection syndrome Herpes simplex (often severe and prolonged) Varicella zoster (may be recurrent ) Molluscum contagiosum Human papillomavirus Oral hairy leukoplakia due to Epstein–Barr virus (EBV) Fungal infections Tinea (all forms) Blastomycosis Candidiasis[dermnetnz.org]
  • Candidiasis of esophagus: (a) recent onset of retrosternal pain on swallowing, and (b) oral candidiasis. Cytomegalovirus retinitis: characteristic appearance on serial ophthalmoscopic examinations.[journalofethics.ama-assn.org]
  • It may be referred to as severely symptomatic stage and includes about two dozen AIDS-defining illnesses, as follows: Candidiasis of the esophagus, bronchi, trachea, or lungs (but not the mouth) Cervical cancer, invasive Coccidiomycosis, disseminated[symptoma.com]
  • The incidence of new cases of tuberculosis was significantly lower with enhanced prophylaxis than with standard prophylaxis (7.1% vs. 10.2%), as was the incidence of cryptococcal infection (1.0% vs. 2.6%), candidiasis (1.1% vs. 2.6%), and new hospitalization[nejm.org]
Sore Throat
  • Advertisement 5 of 17 Getty Images Sore throat and headache As with other symptoms, sore throat and headache can often be recognized as ARS only in context, Dr. Horberg says.[health.com]
  • The initial infection can be mild or very severe and can be accompanied by fever, swollen lymph nodes, joint and muscle aches, and sore throat. Other symptoms can include chills, night sweats, and mouth ulcers.[medicinenet.com]
  • Other common symptoms can include headache, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat. These symptoms can occur within days or weeks of the initial exposure to the virus during a period called primary or acute HIV infection.[hivinsite.ucsf.edu]
  • They include: Headache Diarrhea Nausea and vomiting Fatigue Aching muscles Sore throat Swollen lymph nodes A red rash that doesn't itch, usually on your torso Fever Doctors can now prevent HIV from taking hold in your body if they act quickly.[webmd.com]
Pharyngitis
  • They may present with recurrent infections of the respiratory tract, including otitis media, tonsillitis, sinusitis, pharyngitis, and bronchitis.[symptoma.com]
  • Prospective studies of acute HIV infections show that fever, lymphadenopathy, pharyngitis, diffuse erythematous rash, arthralgia/myalgia, diarrhea, and headache are the commonest symptoms seen with acute HIV infection.[library.med.utah.edu]
  • Although some patients with acute HIV-1 infection experience fever, lymphadenopathy, pharyngitis, skin rash, myalgia, arthralgia, and other symptoms, 1-6 a recent prospective study shows that most patients have nonspecific and relatively mild signs and[aidsinfo.nih.gov]
Diarrhea
  • METHODS: The Global Enteric Multicenter Study enrolled children with moderate-to-severe diarrhea (MSD) and less-severe diarrhea (LSD) between December 2007 and November 2012.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • These symptoms can include recurrent infections, including fungal infection of the mouth ( oral thrush ) or vagina, rashes, fungal infections of the nails, fatigue, diarrhea, vomiting, leukoplakia of the tongue, and weight loss.[medicinenet.com]
  • Advertisement 7 of 17 Getty Images Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea Anywhere from 30% to 60% of people have short-term nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the early stages of HIV, Dr. Malvestutto says.[health.com]
Nausea
  • , vomiting, difficulty breathing, a sore throat, and/or cough Loss of appetite, nausea, and vomiting Didanosine (ddI) Peripheral nerve damage, possibly life-threatening inflammation of the pancreas (pancreatitis), nausea, diarrhea, and an enlarged liver[merckmanuals.com]
  • They include: Headache Diarrhea Nausea and vomiting Fatigue Aching muscles Sore throat Swollen lymph nodes A red rash that doesn't itch, usually on your torso Fever Doctors can now prevent HIV from taking hold in your body if they act quickly.[webmd.com]
  • Advertisement 7 of 17 Getty Images Nausea, vomiting, diarrhea Anywhere from 30% to 60% of people have short-term nausea, vomiting, or diarrhea in the early stages of HIV, Dr. Malvestutto says.[health.com]
  • These symptoms can include: nausea vomiting fatigue fever Symptoms associated with HIV itself, such as cognitive impairment, can also become apparent. HIV is transmittable soon after it’s introduced into the body.[healthline.com]
Chronic Diarrhea
  • Some patients may have symptoms that are often seen with HIV but are nonspecific, such as chronic diarrhea or nonspecific skin findings (seborrheic dermatitis, multiple molluscum contagiosum, poorly responsive psoriasis and prurigo nodularis).[accessmedicine.mhmedical.com]
  • It is associated with an unexplained loss of 10% or more of normal body weight plus chronic diarrhea (30 days or more) or chronic weakness with fever (30 days or more).[medbroadcast.com]
  • diarrhea Sores in the mouth, anus, or genitals Blotches on the skin, under the skin, or inside the mouth, nose, or eyelids Neurological issues, including memory loss and depression Some of these symptoms may be the result of an opportunistic infection[everydayhealth.com]
  • diarrhea, with occasional weight loss from malabsorption More common in patients with advanced HIV disease (i.e., CD4 count 200 per mm 3 [0.20 10 9 per L]) — Diagnosis of exclusion Intestinal malignancies (e.g., non-Hodgkin lymphoma, Kaposi sarcoma,[aafp.org]
  • diarrhea and weight loss with no identifiable cause) The history should address risk factors for possible exposure to HIV, including the following: Unprotected sexual intercourse, especially receptive anal intercourse A large number of sexual partners[emedicine.medscape.com]
Abdominal Pain
  • Symptoms are fever, weight loss, hepatosplenomegaly, malaise, and abdominal pain. The diagnosis is generally confirmed by recovering the pathogen from a sterile tissue (usually blood).[journalofethics.ama-assn.org]
  • pain, and weight loss Cryptococcal meningitis Infection of the tissues covering the brain with the yeast Cryptococcus Headache, fever, and confusion Cytomegalovirus infection Infection of the eyes or intestinal tract with cytomegalovirus Eye: Clouding[merckmanuals.com]
  • HIV-Related Complications of the Gastrointestinal System Complication* Signs and symptoms Typical CD4 lymphocyte count Diagnostic evaluation Microbiology/histology Other Cytomegalovirus infection Fever, anorexia, abdominal pain or bloating, watery diarrhea[aafp.org]
  • People known to have HIV infection should go to the hospital any time they develop high fever, shortness of breath, coughing up blood, severe diarrhea, severe chest or abdominal pain, generalized weakness, severe headache, seizures, confusion, or a change[emedicinehealth.com]
Oral Ulcers
  • About 30%-60% of people infected with HIV develop flu-like symptoms such as sore throat, headache, mild fever, fatigue, muscle and joint pains, swelling of the lymph nodes, rash, and (occasionally) oral ulcers.[health24.com]
  • Angular cheilitis may occur repeatedly and may be accompanied by oral ulcerations. Stage 3. During this moderately symptomatic stage, HIV patients contract more severe infections.[symptoma.com]
  • Oral ulcer caused by herpes simplex virus in a patient with human immunodeficiency virus infection.[aafp.org]
  • ulcers, leucopenia, thrombocytopenia, and transaminase elevation.[aidsinfo.nih.gov]
Night Sweats
  • Other symptoms can include chills, night sweats, and mouth ulcers. The symptoms and signs of the initial HIV infection have also been compared to infectious mononucleosis.[medicinenet.com]
  • If you didn't know you were infected with HIV earlier, you may realize it after you have some of these symptoms: Being tired all of the time Swollen lymph nodes in your neck or groin Fever that lasts for more than 10 days Night sweats Unexplained weight[webmd.com]
  • Advertisement 11 of 17 Getty Images Night sweats About half of people get night sweats during the early stages of HIV infection, Dr. Malvestutto says.[health.com]
Eruptions
  • The patient reported unprotected sexual contacts a few months before the eruptions. The unilateral distribution was highly suggestive of herpes zoster.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Cutaneous B-cell lymphoma and cutaneous T-cell lymphoma Skin cancer including melanoma, squamous cell carcinoma, basal cell carcinoma and anal carcinoma Other skin problems Malnutrition Adverse effects of drugs including lipodystrophy (eg, morbilliform eruptions[dermnetnz.org]
  • Dermatological conditions such as herpes zoster flares, papular eruptions on the skin, seborrheic dermatitis, and fungal infections of the nails may be reported. Angular cheilitis may occur repeatedly and may be accompanied by oral ulcerations.[symptoma.com]
Eczema
  • Leishmaniasis Strongyloidiasis Acanthamebiasis Arthropod infestations / ectoparasites Insect bites Scabies Demodicosis Inflammatory conditions Seborrhoeic dermatitis Psoriasis (new onset and severe forms, including pustular psoriasis and erythroderma ) Eczema[dermnetnz.org]
  • ., eczema, seborrheic dermatitis, psoriasis); molluscum contagiosum; Kaposi sarcoma Fungal dermatoses, varicella zoster virus — Table 1.[aafp.org]
Dry Skin
  • Dry skin, nail problems, hair loss. Damage to the nerves (peripheral neuropathy). Fat loss (lipoatrophy). Fat accumulation. Increased blood-sugar levels and risk of type 2 diabetes.[patient.info]
Arthralgia
  • Although some patients with acute HIV-1 infection experience fever, lymphadenopathy, pharyngitis, skin rash, myalgia, arthralgia, and other symptoms, 1-6 a recent prospective study shows that most patients have nonspecific and relatively mild signs and[aidsinfo.nih.gov]
  • Prospective studies of acute HIV infections show that fever, lymphadenopathy, pharyngitis, diffuse erythematous rash, arthralgia/myalgia, diarrhea, and headache are the commonest symptoms seen with acute HIV infection.[library.med.utah.edu]
Headache
  • The authors describe a 7-y-old boy who presented with severe headache and was detected to have aneurysmal bleed due to intracranial aneurysm.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Other common symptoms can include headache, swollen lymph nodes, and sore throat. These symptoms can occur within days or weeks of the initial exposure to the virus during a period called primary or acute HIV infection.[hivinsite.ucsf.edu]
  • When the brain is affected, these cancers can cause weakness of an arm or a leg, headache, confusion, or personality changes. Having AIDS increases the risk of other cancers.[merckmanuals.com]
Encephalopathy
  • Neurodevelopmental delay and encephalopathy are complications of both HIV and GA1. In such a setting it is important to recognise that HIV and GA1 can occur simultaneously.[ncbi.nlm.nih.gov]
  • Coccidiomycosis, disseminated or extrapulmonary Cryptococcosis, extrapulmonary Cryptosporidiosis, chronic intestinal (lasting more than one month) Cytomegalovirus disease (other than liver, spleen, and nodes) Cytomegalovirus retinitis with loss of vision Encephalopathy[symptoma.com]
  • HIV encephalopathy. Histoplasmosis, disseminated (at a site other than or in addition to the lungs or cervical or hilar lymph nodes). Isosporiasis with diarrhea persisting more than 1 month. Kaposi sarcoma at any age.[journalofethics.ama-assn.org]
  • An AIDS-related brain illness such as AIDS dementia (HIV encephalopathy). A severe body wasting syndrome. Many different symptoms can develop from the above conditions.[patient.info]

Workup

Both direct and indirect assays may be used to confirm HIV infection, and they primarily differ in their window periods [4]:

  • Viral RNA may be detected as early as 1-2 weeks after the infection, with viral loads frequently exceeding 10 million copies per milliliter during acute HIV infection [3].
  • Viral antigen p24 becomes detectable shortly thereafter.
  • The production of antibodies may not be confirmed until >3 weeks after primary exposure.

Currently, diagnosis of HIV infection is performed with fourth generation immunoassays. These are designed to detect HIV antigen p24 as well as IgG and IgM antibodies against HIV-1 and HIV-2, and their specificity and sensitivity are >99.5%. In order to differentiate between HIV-1 and HIV-2, the presence of antibodies directed against one or the other agent needs to be proven. In case of contradictory results, HIV nucleic acids may be amplified and identified using nucleic acid amplification tests [4].

The confirmation of HIV infection entails an extensive laboratory workup to assess the patient's immune status, and to check for co-infections. This workup includes [5]:

Treatment

Adequate treatment should be provided as soon as HIV infection is diagnosed, irrespective of the presence of symptoms. This applies to both genders and all ages, including pregnant women. Preferred first-line regimens of antiretroviral therapy (ART) are as follows [2]:

  • Adults: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine/emtricitabine, and efavirenz. Alternative regimens replace tenofovir disoproxil fumarate with azidothymidine, or efavirenz with dolutegravir or nevirapine.
  • Pregnant women: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine/emtricitabine, and efavirenz. Alternative regimens replace tenofovir disoproxil fumarate with azidothymidine, or efavirenz with nevirapine.
  • Adolescents: tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine/emtricitabine, and efavirenz. Alternative regimens replace tenofovir disoproxil fumarate with azidothymidine or abacavir, or efavirenz with dolutegravir or nevirapine.
  • Children aged <10 years: abacavir, lamivudine, and efavirenz. Alternative regimens replace abacavir with azidothymidine or tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, or efavirenz with nevirapine.
  • Children aged <3 years: abacavir/azidothymidine, lamivudine, and lopinavir plus low-dose ritonavir. In an alternative regimen, lopinavir plus low-dose ritonavir is replaced by nevirapine.

Drug resistance and toxicity are the principal reasons for the choice of alternative regimens, but interactions with any agents employed to treat co-infections and comorbidities should also be considered [2]. In general, fixed-dose combinations and once-daily regimens are preferred to improve adherence to therapeutic recommendations. Lifelong treatment is required, and patients should be monitored for their response to ART. Six and twelve months after the initiation of ART, and annually thereafter, HIV loads should be measured, and CD4+ T-cell counts should be evaluated to assess the patient's immune status. These tests may be complemented by standard analyses of blood samples to detect potential signs of organ failure.

Of note, post-exposure prophylaxis of HIV infection should be provided within 72 hours after the potential acquisition of the virus [2]. In this context, combination regimens comprising tenofovir disoproxil fumarate, lamivudine/emtricitabine, and lopinavir or amprenavir plus low-dose ritonavir are recommended for adolescents and adults.

Prognosis

The use of ART may significantly diminish the risk of progression to AIDS and of premature mortality. On a global scale, the expansion of access to ART has been associated with a 30% decrease in mortality. Increasingly fewer patients develop AIDS-defining illnesses and die of the disease [6]. With regard to survival, it has been estimated that a 25-year old person with HIV and without hepatitis C virus had a mean life expectancy of 64 years, which is about a decade less than the matched general population [7].

Etiology

HIV infection is caused by two related, yet distinct viruses, by HIV-1 and HIV-2. HIV-1 accounts for the majority of infections and severely interferes with T-cell immunity, whereas infections with HIV-2 allow for the establishment of a more effective and sustained immune response against [8].

HIV is mainly transmitted via the sexual route. Furthermore, contact with blood, blood products, and body fluids of HIV patients may lead to an infection. Intravenous drug abuse and needle sharing are the most important risk factors to this end, while the transmission of HIV during the transfusion or transplantation of blood and organs, respectively, has become increasingly rare after the introduction of screenings.

HIV may also be transmitted from the pregnant mother to her unborn child, and from the nursing mother to the infant [9] [10]. The risk of transmission is particularly high in case of incident HIV infections during pregnancy or the postpartum period, and it's precisely these cases that remain undetected in the absence of repeat HIV testing. It may amount to 58%, as has been shown for Rwanda, but is more commonly estimated at about 20% [9]. In general, the risk of transmission may be significantly reduced with ART.

Epidemiology

In 2012, an estimated 35 million people were living with HIV. Both the incidence and prevalence of HIV infections have been declining for about two decades: About 3.7 million people became infected in 1997, approximately 2.3 million new infections occurred in 2012, and an estimated 1.8 million patients contracted the disease in 2016. This development corresponds to an overall reduction by >50%, and it is mainly attributed to the expansion of ART [11].

By far the highest incidence and prevalence rates are reported in Sub-Saharan Africa. In 2012, almost three-fourths of HIV patients worldwide were living in this region. Similarly, the vast majority of children infected with HIV comes from this part of Africa. While mortality related to HIV and AIDS diminished on a global scale, this does not necessarily apply to resource-limited settings as encountered in developing countries [6]. Poverty remains a major barrier to access to education, healthcare, and ART, and large parts of the Sub-Saharan Africa population live below the poverty line [12]. In sum, about 1 million people died of AIDS in 2016 - about 800.000 of them in the African region.

Sex distribution
Age distribution

Pathophysiology

The detrimental consequences of HIV infection are due to the gradual loss of CD4+ T-cells and imbalance in CD4+ T-cell homeostasis, resulting in progressive immunodeficiency and ultimately death. CD4+ T-cells are implicated in cellular and humoral immune responses against infections, and they are selectively infected by HIV. The virus binds to CD4 and enters the target cell. Inside the lymphocyte, the viral genome and enzymes are released and the reverse transcription of viral RNA is initiated. This process is mediated by viral reverse transcriptase and precedes the integration of viral DNA into the host genome by HIV integrase. Transcription factors are required for the subsequent transcription of the viral genome, and the resulting RNA serves as a template for protein biosynthesis at the host's ribosomes. Posttranslational modifications are realized by HIV proteases before virion buds form from viral proteins and RNA. These virion buds undergo a maturation process and are eventually able to infect other cells. They may be released during the lysis of the initial host cell, but they may also reach other cells upon the fusion of infected and uninfected lymphocytes. In any case, the spread of the infection is associated with decreasing quantities of CD4+ T-cells and a reduction in the number of functional cells [8].

Prevention

Because HIV infection is essentially a sexually transmitted disease, information campaigns and sex education are the pillars of prophylaxis. From adolescence onward, boys and girls should be encouraged to practice safer sex. The correct and consistent use of condoms largely reduces the risk of infection, as does the reduction of the number of sexual partners. Before abstaining from condoms, both partners should get tested for HIV.

Distinct measures may dam the spread of the virus at a higher level [2]:

  • In order to comply with the aforementioned recommendation of safer sex, condoms may be provided to those who are unable or unlikely to purchase them.
  • The implementation of needle and syringe programs may save the life of drug addicts.
  • Voluntary medical male circumcision should be offered in high-risk settings and may be associated with an approximately 60% reduction in the risk of female-to-male sexual transmission.
  • Each and every unit of blood, tissues, and organs to be transplanted to another person should be screened for the presence of HIV, among others.

Additionally, people at very high risk of exposure to HIV may be provided pre-exposure prophylaxis containing tenofovir disoproxil fumarate [2]. This may apply to serodiscordant couples, heterosexual men and women, men who have sex with men, transgender people, sex workers, people who inject drugs, and those in prisons and other closed settings.

At the same time, researches worldwide are working intensively on the development of a vaccine against HIV infections [13] [14].

Summary

HIV infection constitutes a pandemia. Incidence and prevalence peaked in the 1990s, but could significantly be reduced by the introduction of highly active antiretroviral therapies. Today, HIV patients who are diagnosed before the progression to advanced-stage disease and provided ART, have a near-to-normal life expectancy [7]. This may give the misleading impression of HIV no longer being a serious threat to health, and it may motivate to neglect safety measures to prevent an infection. Because the vast majority of patients acquires HIV during sexual intercourse, safer sex remains the most important of those prophylactic measures.

Additionally, the global fight against HIV and AIDS is hindered by limited access to medical care and effective treatment in developing countries. Current epidemiological data clearly show a concentration of infections in Sub-Saharan Africa, where people may not be able to afford ART or even HIV testing, so many infections remain undetected and/or untreated. The improvement of accessibility is a major challenge on the way towards the eradication of HIV, as is the continuous education about the prevention of sexually transmitted diseases.

Patient Information

Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) infection is possibly the most widely known sexually transmitted disease. It follows a progressive course and is associated with a gradual impairment of the immune system, eventually leading to life-threatening acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS) and death. The development of effective therapies made HIV infections lose some of its dreadfulness, but it currently remains incurable. What's more, HIV infection interferes with the patient's quality of life and constitutes a substantial health and economic burden, so every possible effort should be made to avoid the exposure to the virus:

  • The consistent and correct use of condoms is the most important preventive measure and applies to both genders and all ages.
  • Intravenous drug users should not share needles and syringes, and strive for overcoming their addiction.
  • Medical personnel and everyone else possibly exposed to infected blood, blood products or body fluids should apply appropriate safety measures. In high-risk settings, these may include the prophylactic administration of antiretroviral drugs.

In any case, treatment should be started as early as possible to assure an optimum outcome, so people who have reasons to assume they may have contracted the disease should seek medical assistance and check their HIV status. If antiretroviral treatment is initiated within 72 hours after the initial exposure, HIV infection may possibly be avoided.

References

Article

  1. Weinberg JL, Kovarik CL. The WHO Clinical Staging System for HIV/AIDS. Virtual Mentor. 2010; 12(3):202-206.
  2. WHO Guidelines Approved by the Guidelines Review Committee. In: Consolidated Guidelines on the Use of Antiretroviral Drugs for Treating and Preventing HIV Infection: Recommendations for a Public Health Approach. 2nd edition. Geneva: World Health Organization; 2016.
  3. Bottone PD, Bartlett AH. Diagnosing Acute HIV Infection. Pediatr Ann. 2017; 46(2):e47-e50.
  4. Guarner J. Human immunodeficiency virus: Diagnostic approach. Semin Diagn Pathol. 2017; 34(4):318-324.
  5. Aberg JA, Gallant JE, Ghanem KG, Emmanuel P, Zingman BS, Horberg MA. Primary care guidelines for the management of persons infected with HIV: 2013 update by the HIV Medicine Association of the Infectious Diseases Society of America. Clin Infect Dis. 2014; 58(1):1-10.
  6. Lima VD, Lourenco L, Yip B, Hogg RS, Phillips P, Montaner JS. AIDS incidence and AIDS-related mortality in British Columbia, Canada, between 1981 and 2013: a retrospective study. Lancet HIV. 2015; 2(3):e92-97.
  7. Lohse N. The road to success. Long-term prognosis for persons living with HIV in Denmark - time trends and risk factors. Dan Med J. 2016; 63(2).
  8. Vidya Vijayan KK, Karthigeyan KP, Tripathi SP, Hanna LE. Pathophysiology of CD4+ T-Cell Depletion in HIV-1 and HIV-2 Infections. Front Immunol. 2017; 8:580.
  9. Drake AL, Wagner A, Richardson B, John-Stewart G. Incident HIV during pregnancy and postpartum and risk of mother-to-child HIV transmission: a systematic review and meta-analysis. PLoS Med. 2014; 11(2):e1001608.
  10. Ogundele MO, Coulter JB. HIV transmission through breastfeeding: problems and prevention. Ann Trop Paediatr. 2003; 23(2):91-106.
  11. Fettig J, Swaminathan M, Murrill CS, Kaplan JE. Global epidemiology of HIV. Infect Dis Clin North Am. 2014; 28(3):323-337.
  12. Haacker M, Birungi C. Poverty as a barrier to antiretroviral therapy access for people living with HIV/AIDS in Kenya. Afr J AIDS Res. 2018; 17(2):145-152.
  13. Gao Y, McKay PF, Mann JFS. Advances in HIV-1 Vaccine Development. Viruses. 2018; 10(4).
  14. Rios A. Fundamental challenges to the development of a preventive HIV vaccine. Curr Opin Virol. 2018; 29:26-32.

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Last updated: 2019-07-11 22:16