Posts tagged HIV statistics
Change in economic and social climates has long been known to affect health trends. Times of war and periods of peace yield different results when it comes to public health. The spread if HIV is no different. Many studies have been conducted over long periods of time to try and track just how some of these factors change the spread of the infection. While the concept is simple enough, trying to gather data in times of violent conflict is difficult. For this and other reasons, the research that has been done up to this point has proven inconclusive. In some instances, the research has been contradictory.
As Tensions Rise, So Do Infection Rates
Efforts to help clear up some of the mystery behind the numbers have met with some success. One recently concluded study was able to track the number of HIV infections in times leading up to violent conflicts. Interestingly, the results pointed to higher rates of infection starting about five years before a conflict broke out. Increase in HIV infections was drastic enough to make a clear dividing line between the period before economic and/or social strife began to escalate—and general peace.
The institutions that gathered the information hope to use these conclusions as a springboard to better understand how external environments contribute to the spreading of the virus. It is their goal to be able to reduce HIV transmission before social conditions worsen in an area.
Conflicting Data During Violent Wartime
Just how violent conflict itself changes the rate of infection is still a bit of a mystery. During turbulent times involving bloodshed, the number of new infections seems to decline. Those in the medical community in these areas have their doubts. As mentioned, gathering information in such situations is difficult, and many researchers believe that the numbers may be significantly higher than what is recorded. Once the violence in an area dissipates, the number of newly reported infections begins to increase once again.
The period of time with the highest vulnerability to public health is definitely in the years before violence breaks out. Further insight into how social change and violence affect behaviors may hold answers into how spreading HIV can be curbed during such times.
Year after year, advancements made in the treatment of HIV are helping many to lead longer and healthier lives. As individuals enter their later years, it is important to know what to expect when living with HIV, and how it affects the mind.
Current Standards for Testing
For example, at least one-third of HIV-positive patients will develop what is termed HIV-associated neurocognitive disorder. The medical community knows of this disorder, and very often tests older adults who are HIV-positive. New information on the cognitive functions of those living with an HIV infection may change how physicians test for the disorder.
Normally, doctors will administer a standard neuropsychology exam. If a patient scores well on this test, he is usually deemed cognitively normal. This standard test seemed to be doing the job—until the matter was further investigated. Researchers examined a group of patients who had passed this test, but then subjected them to different types of testing. The surprising results exposed the need for further probing when looking to diagnose HIV-associate neurocognitive disorder.
What the Research Revealed
Older, HIV-positive adults were asked to perform certain mental tasks on cue. At times, the tasks were changed from one to another. This is where physicians began to notice a lag between healthy participants and those with HIV. This response to switching tasks was significantly slower in the HIV group.
To delve a bit deeper, brain scans were ordered. The scans revealed that the dorsal anterior cingulate cortex was reacting differently in the control group than the HIV-positive one. This area of the human brain is linked to both executive and apathetic deficits. These cognitive impairments may come in under the radar with standard testing.
The Latest Developments on How HIV Affects the Mind
At this time, we have no way to treat the disorder. Efficient testing, however, is still vital to patients, as well as their families and caregivers. Understanding that some functions might come a little slower to HIV-positive individuals during their later years is important for those who interact with them daily. Effective testing and education are the keys to finding out how HIV affects the mind.
These studies are recent. More study and research are underway.
The drug scene in this country is changing and not for the better. Injection drug users are on the rise, just not where most expected. What was once contained and limited to larger, populated areas is now spreading to the most rural backdrops. Due to this surge, HIV outbreaks have been sprouting in what some would have considered, unlikely regions. Take for example a small agricultural county in Indiana.
This small county, bordering Kentucky, averaged just a few cases of HIV per year in the past. In the first half of this year, however, 169 new cases were reported – a drastic change. To add to that, 80% of those infected with HIV have been infected with Hepatitis C as well.
Experts long feared that this shift in demographic would bring about these tragic consequences. Drug abuse is now common among rural, predominantly white areas. Another alarming statistic shows that the number of male and female abusers are about equal. Along with injecting drugs comes the increased risk of spreading HIV. While proven methods in the past have effectively faced these challenges, one such method has a federal funding ban on it. Needle exchange programs worked well in the past to ensure that those who used needles would not pass them on to other users. A filled prescription for a needle could be refilled once the used needle was returned. It is a simple concept, but it worked and worked well.
The issue at hand is that there is currently a ban on federal funding for these programs. Without funding, the programs cease to run. Anyone with needle prescriptions can simply toss or pass along the used item. It is precisely these actions that have health officials worried that more HIV outbreaks in small communities will be making headlines. The call now is for a lift on this ban in hopes of stemming the changing tide.
As for the small Indiana community, the state governor has allowed funds to go into the needle exchange program for that county. The rest of the state will not be receiving the same benefits. The funding for each county is conditional: that is, based on need.
Low Risk of Birth Defects: HIV and Antiretroviral Medication
With new compounds and therapies expanding what can be done for individuals living with HIV, more and more infected women are looking towards pregnancy and childbirth. The combination of pregnancy and the latest antiviral medications is always a cause of concern, as we often don’t have enough data to make a definitive decision on whether a certain medicine should be given to an individual while pregnant. We also need to know when it is most likely for a mother to infect her infant, and which medicines are best at keeping the rate of infection low. Certainly, many antiretroviral drugs developed in the fight against HIV have been thought to increase the potential of birth defects in the unborn children. A new study, however, shows the opposite. Indeed, it confirms a low risk of birth defects by antiretroviral medications used during pregnancy.
This study – the Pediatric HIV/AIDS Cohort Study (PHACS) Surveillance Monitoring of ART Toxicities (SMARTT) study – released its findings on 10 November 2014. Atazanavir was the only antiretroviral drug that was shown to increase the otherwise low risk of birth defects among HIV-positive women. This medication showed a 2-fold increase in the risk of birth defects, particularly musculoskeletal and skin anomalies. However, another study confirmed that at least three varied regimens of anti-HIV medications—that did not include atazanavir—was safe for women who are expecting. In fact, all other antiretroviral, anti-HIV medications tested in these studies showed no increase in the risk of birth defects. This is great news for HIV infected women who still want to become mothers. With the risks of infecting their child minimal, and the side effects almost non-existent, the hopes of researchers are high that we will find ways to altogether eliminate the transfer of HIV between mother and child.
HIV Infected Individuals and Age Related Diseases: Appear at Similar Age as in Uninfected Adults
Heart attacks, cancer, and kidney failure among HIV-infected individuals has been thoroughly researched and the data shows that infected individuals are more likely to develop one of these diseases than people who are not HIV positive. This research began to be compiled in the mid-1990s, when those infected with HIV were starting to live longer thanks to new antiretroviral medications. Before these drugs were created, contracting HIV was almost certainly a death sentence. When HIV/AIDs first came onto the scene, the HIV cells would eradicate the immune system, the person would develop AIDS, and common diseases like the cold or influenza would ravage the body and kill the host. In the years since, however, antiretroviral drugs have been developed and continually improved upon, and HIV has become a manageable disease. In fact, many HIV-positive individuals have been able to live out their lives with the infection and, in the U.S. and other developed countries, are now dying of non-HIV related circumstances. With the numbers of older HIV-positive individuals growing, the amount of research on those in this group has increased. The latest studies now suggest that among HIV infected individuals, age-related diseases appear at similar ages, as compared with uninfected individuals.
Researchers at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health used data from almost 100,000 individuals, both infected and uninfected, who suffered from age-related diseases between 2003 and 2010. The results confirmed that those who are HIV-infected tend to develop heart attacks, cancer, and kidney failure much more commonly than in uninfected adults. However, it also showed that the ages of those developing heart attacks and cancer were the same in both infected and uninfected patients. Moreover, kidney failure seemed to only have a six-month gap between infected patients and patients who were not HIV positive. This news, that among HIV infected individuals age-related diseases appear at similar ages regardless of HIV status, shows that the timeline of getting checked for these diseases does not have to be significantly altered. However, the importance of checkups is still much greater for HIV-infected adults.