| HIV and AIDS:
Day One: After You've Tested Positive
A positive HIV antibody test is scary news but it's not a death sentence. Many people are alive and well 15 years or more after becoming HIV positive. A positive test result is an important medical message that may save or extend your life. Whether you took the test or not, sooner or later you would have learned of your HIV infection status. If you learn by testing, you have a chance to slow or prevent some of the possible medical consequences. If you didn't get tested, HIV would announce itself at some point in the form of an infection or damage to your immune system. But if you had waited for the disease to announce itself, many of your best medical options would already be lost.
Most testing services provide counseling to help people handle the news. The real work, however, is up to you. Given the right attitude and the right information, HIV infection can be managed like a chronic illness, one which some people seem able to survive for a long, long time. Getting informed and taking charge of your health will surely help you make the best of your situation. This document can help you with the things you need to do:
· Developing a strategy for adapting to your new situation
· Learning more about HIV and how it can affect you
· Understanding medical tests
· Finding out about your options for intervention and learn how to use the services of Project Inform
Reading this paper is a good first step. It's a little long, but it's worth the time. It's about saving your life.
HIV and the Immune System
AIDS is the most serious form of an illness caused by a virus called the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV). Although it is well established that HIV is the primary cause of AIDS, it is not fully understood how it does it. In general, the virus attacks or disables the body's immune system. Over time, if the immune system becomes seriously damaged, the body loses the ability to combat a variety of illnesses, called opportunistic infections (OI's ) or conditions. Each new infection further wears down the body's defenses. These infections and cancers, such as pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP) and Kaposi's sarcoma (KS), are the real killers of people with HIV.
This gradual destruction of the immune system, however, doesn't happen the same way in everyone, or at the same pace. In some people, it may not happen at all. In a small percentage of people, infection with HIV leads to destruction of the immune system very rapidly, in just a few years. But others remain well for 10 to 15 years or longer. On average, most people remain well for about 10 years before experiencing the first serious symptoms.
Despite the imperfect picture of how HIV destroys the immune system, a number of things are well established:
· Tests which measure the amount of virus in the bloodstream (called "viral load" tests) can generally predict how quickly HIV will damage the immune system. In effect, viral load tests tell you the expected rate of disease progression—the higher the number, the faster the progression. Effective treatments are now available which can greatly reduce the level of virus, thus slowing the rate of disease progression.
· Tests which measure the level of a certain type of white blood cell, called the CD4+ (CD 4 positive) can measure the decline of immune health. Many scientists feel that the CD4+ test tells you how far you have already progressed toward AIDS or AIDS-related infections. Treatment, however, can prevent or delay many of these infections, as well as slow the decline of the immune system.
· For long periods, often several years, the body seems to cope effectively with HIV in many people. The number and percentage of CD4+ cells fall, but slowly. During this period, most people suffer no obvious ill effects and feel normal. Despite this, most researchers believe that damage is being done to the immune system in this period. Many scientists believe that early intervention during this period may have the greatest impact.
· Without treatment, the body slowly loses its ability to fight infections. Some infections, like pneumocystis pneumonia (PCP), become likely when the CD4+ count falls below 200 or 300. Minor infections can occur at counts higher than 300. Other life-threatening infections become more likely when the count falls below 50 or 100. Once the body loses its ability to fight these infections, it's unclear whether current treatment can restore it.
Monitoring Immune Health
Most of us wait until a disease shows up before doing anything about it—"if it ain't broke, don't fix it." In HIV disease, the immune system starts to "break" immediately, not just when opportunistic infections show up. Thus, monitoring the health of the immune system is critically important. There are two common approaches for doing this: (1) Symptom Observation and (2) Lab Tests. Each has advantages and disadvantages.
You must be logged in to add tags.
This user has not written anything in his panorama profile yet.
HIV and AIDS Min Arot
| Aug 25th, 2003
You have written an excellent text that is informative without being too technically for the non-scientific minds. I wish that you would get an opportunity for wider dissemination of the article in african journals and media so that more people may know these pertinent details about HIV and AIDS. There's also a French journal called Remaide which specializes on HIV and AIDS which could publish this article. Thanks and all the best.
You must be a TakingITGlobal member to post a comment. Sign up
for free or login