HIV/AIDS as Part of World AIDS Day

HIV(human immunodeficiency virus) is a sexually transmitted disease that attacks the immune system leading to a decline in CD4 T cells with subsequent immunodeficiency and chronic inflammation. HIV-1 can be traced back to the early 1920s. Due to population growth, changes in sexual behaviors, and use of unsterilized needles, the virus has now spread affecting approximately 1.2 million people in the USA and 38 million people globally. HIV can be transmitted through infected bodily fluids such as blood, seminal fluid, vaginal fluid, rectal fluid, and breast milk.

It is mostly contracted by anal or vaginal sex in the US and less commonly through oral sex, needle injury, blood transfusion, organ transplants, or mother-to-child transmission either during pregnancy, birth, or breastfeeding(Centers for Disease Control and Prevention[CDC], 2010). Acutely infected persons often have very high viral loads and are at highest risk of transmitting the virus. The US Preventive Services Task Force recommends that clinicians screen for HIV infection in all patients between the ages of 15 and 65 years. There is insufficient evidence to determine appropriate time interval for repeat HIV screening, but the CDC recommends screening for asymptomatic sexually active MSM(Men Who Have Sex with Men) at least annually and more frequently(i.e., every 3 or 6 months) for MSM individuals at increased risk for HIV infection.

Currently, there is no cure for HIV, but antiretroviral therapy is very effective at controlling viral replication. In 2012, the FDA approved Truvada for a pre-exposure prophylaxis(PrEP) for at-risk individuals and when used along with safer sex practices has been safe and effective at HIV prevention. Patients are encouraged to stay well informed, get tested, and use condoms. Male latex condoms remain effective at preventing HIV and other sexually transmitted infections.