There is no doubt that HIV is a deadly virus. Since it was discovered, this pandemic has infected 78 million people and 35 million have died due to an AIDS-related illness. The worst part is that scientists have yet to find an absolute cure to the disease. Why is it that the HIV virus is so hard to eradicate? What is it about the disease that makes treatment difficult?
Many experts note the infection’s ability to hide within the body. HIV is notorious for eluding even the most powerful combinations of medicine. The sneaky nature of the disease allows it to wait until the right moment, when the body’s defenses are down, to attack the immune system. Even today, scientists are still trying to figure out and understand exactly how the virus works in order to combat its effects on the body.
How the HIV Virus Moves Within the Body
Once the body is infected with HIV, the virus begins to attack the immune system. It’s number one target are the CD4 cells in the body. These cells help the immune system fight off infection and diseases. Little by little, HIV lowers the CD4 count until the body can no longer protect itself.
The best defense against HIV is antiretroviral therapy (ART). This is a combination of several medications that work together to suppress HIV levels in the body. In order for this treatment to work, it has to be taken daily. When taken properly, the treatment has proven effective in reducing traces of the virus to nearly undetectable levels and preventing the progression of the disease to aids.
What Studies Have Found
ART is no cure. Traces of the virus remain within the body despite the use of these strong medications. The virus likes to hide in immune cells when at low levels. By remaining dormant in these “Sanctuary Sites,” it can wait in places unreachable by drugs. Once it has found the right moment, it will quickly reproduce when an HIV positive individual stops taking ART therapy.
In a recent joint study by the Monash Biomedicine Discovery Institute and the Systems Immunity Research Institute at Cardiff University, the two institutions discovered that mutations within HIV help it appear dormant and virtually undetectable by the immune system. These mutations change the way that key immune molecules called Major Histocompatibility Complex (MHC), display the virus.
“This work uncovers a novel mechanism for HIV immune escape, which will be important to incorporate into future vaccine development and may have broader implications for immune recognition of MHC molecules,” he said.
What You Can Do
While scientists work hard to find a way to detect and eradicate the HIV virus completely, you have to do your part to curb the spread of the virus. Protect by getting tested. Knowing is an important step. If you are HIV-negative, protect yourself by practicing safe sex and taking pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). For those infected by the disease, remember to take ART daily to prevent the virus from progressing.
Patients with HIV are always at risk. They are left vulnerable to infections and other comorbidities due to the virus attacking their immune system. Scientists were startled when they made the revelation that HIV patients had a 4 percent higher risk of developing diabetes. This discovery was made in a recent study published in the BMJ Open Diabetes Research & Care online journal.
Despite Low Obesity Rates, Diabetes Risk Persist
Obesity is a key indicator of diabetes. However, many patients with HIV do not have obesity, a fact leaving scientist confused. To find out just how prevalent diabetes is among the HIV population, researchers launched a probe into two sets of data from 2009-2010.
They analyzed a survey of 8,610 HIV-positive individuals in the Medical Monitoring Project (MMP) and another survey of 5,064 people without the disease who participated in the annual National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey (NHANES). Comparing these two sets of data would give them insights into the diabetes risk of those with and without HIV.
Here is the breakdown of what the researchers found:
- One in 10 HIV patients had diabetes.
- 4% of those with diabetes had type 1.
- Over of those with diabetes had type 2.
- 44% of HIV patients had and unspecified strain.
- Over 8% of the general population had diabetes.
- The occurrence of diabetes was 3.8% higher in HIV patients.
This study was able to show that HIV patients are at risk. However, since the research was purely observational, scientists were not able to make a definitive conclusion as to why. They know that obesity is still a risk factor, but due to its high absence in individuals with HIV, they have to think differently.
The researchers had this to say: “Additional research would help to determine whether [diabetes] screening guidelines should be modified to include HIV infection as a risk factor for [the condition], and to identify optimal management strategies in this population.”
For this post, we’ve decided to do something a little different and share our favorite inspirational HIV quotes. Living with HIV is a day-by-day challenge. Because of this, a positive mindset is important. High anxiety and depression have a strong effect on HIV patients. More so than a regular patient.
People with HIV want to be treated with kindness and respect. Just like everyone else. Telling them as much can go a long way. So, with that in mind, here are just a few of some of the most inspirational HIV quotes.
Inspirational HIV Quotes
- “Being seen does have value. I have the support of my boyfriend, my great friends, and my loving parents. Many do not and this is, in part, for them.” – Olympian Ji Wallace on having HIV.
- “We need to band together as a unit every day, especially to conquer the strength of the AIDS virus.” – Actor Dustin Hoffman, on combatting the spread of HIV/AIDS.
- “HIV does not make people dangerous to know, so you can shake their hands and give them a hug: Heaven knows they need it.” – Princess Diana, on getting rid of the HIV stigma.
- “Sick people, particularly those with serious conditions, greatly prefer the company of their friends and family to residence in a hospital or nursing home.” – Author and activist David Mixner, on the importance of a strong support system for sick people.
- “Three decades into this crisis, let us set our sights on achieving the “three zeros.” Zero new HIV infections, zero discrimination, and zero AIDS-related deaths.” – Ban Ki-Moon, secretary-general of the UN, calling for the cure of HIV and AIDS.
- “We live in a completely interdependent world, which simply means we cannot escape each other. How we respond to AIDS depends, in part, on whether we understand this interdependence. It is not someone else’s problem. This is everybody’s problem.” – Bill Clinton, discussing a united front in solving the AIDS crisis.
Some of the most iconic figures of the past century have shared inspirational words about HIV. Whether the person is royalty, a writer, or even a Hollywood star, they all share the same eagerness when it comes to fighting HIV. They believe that positivity, as well as working together, will help find a cure to end the virus once and for all.
As a result of better treatment options, more and more patients have considered finding employment and working with their HIV. As AIDSInfo states, many people living with HIV lead normal, healthy lives, including having a job. So, if you are healthy enough, and want to get back in the workforce after your HIV diagnosis, this is a possibility.
Seeking employment is a big step, though. Working with HIV has many benefits. However, many obstacles still stand in the way of many HIV-positive people seeking employment. For anyone living with HIV and looking to work, it’s important to consider these factors.
Working with HIV Has Positive Effects on Patients
When asked why they wanted to work, HIV-positive individuals cited a long list of reasons. Aside from the obvious financial benefits, a main driving force was that it increased their self-worth. For many people, what they do for a living is closely linked to how they perceive themselves. Being able to contribute in some way boosts their self-esteem.
Increased social interaction is another positive to working with HIV. Isolation is a common problem among people fighting HIV. Being around people every day creates a possibility for consistent engagement that would otherwise be harder to find.
Obstacles for HIV Patients in the Workforce
Research has found many concerns related to the possible loss of health benefits when re-entering the workforce. Depending on their healthcare plan, they may no longer be eligible to get those benefits.
They also fear the possibility of disclosure. Sensitive information of this ilk becoming public knowledge leads to worry about being discriminated against. Although there are laws in place to prevent this type of discrimination, it’s still a concern.
Working with HIV can provide financial independence and an improved sense of self-worth. But for many, the costs outweigh the benefits. Be sure to give each possibility a good amount of thought before deciding what’s best.