Questions & Answers about Multi-Drug Resistant HIV


HIV/AIDS

What is AIDS?

  • Acquired
  • Immune
  • Deficiency
  • Syndrome

Acquired It is not innate, it is not self-germinating, and it is not based on a person’s status, personality, sexual orientation or economic class. It is a communicable (or transmissible) illness, and it is acquired through specific behaviors or processes. There is a specific causal agent, and it doesn’t discriminate—it can be acquired by anyone as a result of his/her behavior.

Immune It is a disease of the immune system, and it impacts how the immune system functions. The immune system is the body’s defense against illness and disease. Skin is our main external immune defense; internally, our main interior immune defense is our white blood cells. Our immune system:

  1. Regulates: it maintains the body’s natural balance.
  2. Defends: It fights off new invasive agents (antigens).
  3. Rebounds: It helps the body recover from illness.

Deficiency Persons with AIDS have an immune deficiency. This means they lack sufficient immune response. Persons with AIDS may lack all three levels of immune response.

Syndrome AIDS is characterized by a syndrome. A syndrome is a group of illnesses or symptoms. AIDS, rather than being characterized by specific symptoms, is characterized by a syndrome of specific illnesses/diseases. These diseases are called Opportunistic Infections.

What is HIV?

  • Human
  • Immunodeficiency
  • Virus

Human It is a human virus, it is transmitted from person to person, and it causes clinical disease and “full blown” AIDS only in humans. Animals do not give it to humans; humans do not give it to animals.

Immunodeficiency The virus causes immune deficiency in those it infects.

Virus The causal agent of AIDS is a virus. A virus is the smallest known disease causing agent—it is about 1/1000th the size of a blood cell. A virus is much smaller than bacteria and parasites. Viruses are the causal agents we know least about, and viruses also mutate very quickly.

“Necessary but not Sufficient”

Not everyone living with HIV will progress to AIDS. There is no causal agent known that causes disease in 100% of the people it infects. HIV is necessary—but not sufficient by itself—to cause progression to “full blown” AIDS.

Progression of the illness may take many years, and people usually live with HIV for years with no signs/symptoms of the disease.

It is inaccurate to refer to having HIV as definitely a death sentence.

How HIV Works

HIV replicates itself by using the cells in your immune system. The main target of HIV is a subset of white blood cells known as T-cells. The specific T-cells it targets are CD-4 cells. Here’s what happens...

HIV bonds with T-cells and releases its genetic material (RNA) into the core of the CD-4 cell.

Inside the cell, through a process called reverse transcriptase, HIV genetic material is converted into DNA. The new DNA imprints itself onto the nucleus of the cell. The CD-4 cell begins replicating HIV through normal genetic transcription (DNA into RNA). HIV spores begin to bud on the cell membrane, and then break away from the cell. The CD-4 cell membrane weakens and bursts, and the cell dies.

Free floating HIV are released into the bloodstream and attach to other cells. Continued replication causes the ongoing death of CD-4 cells. CD-4 cell count continues to drop.

When a person’s cell count drops below 200 per cubic millimeter they are diagnosed with AIDS. A person can also get an AIDS diagnosis if they are HIV-positive and have any of the following “opportunistic infections”: Kaposi’s sarcoma, Cytomegalovirus, Pneumoncystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP), Toxoplasmosis Encephalitis, or Cryptosporidiosis.

Even if a person’s cell count bounces back up above 200, or they beat an opportunistic infection, they are still considered to have AIDS.

Understanding HIV Cofactors

Cofactors are a complex combination of medical and behavioral variables that can influence the progression to disease in persons who have already acquired an infection with a causal agent. Cofactors which may influence HIV disease progression include:

  • Nutrition Things we eat can be helpful, neutral or harmful to our bodies.
  • Substance Use Alcohol, injection drug use, and nicotine cigarettes can have the effect of weakening our immune response.
  • Rest/Fatigue Rest helps to rejuvenate our bodies. Lack of rest, or chronic fatigue can weaken our immune system.
  • Stress Stress weakens our immune response and makes us more susceptible to illness and disease.
  • History of other diseases STDs are believed to have a high interactive rate with HIV, particularly syphilis, herpes, and chlamydia.
  • Genetics Genetics may speed the progression of HIV infections to AIDS, or may increase the odds of a person becoming infected with HIV upon exposure to the virus.

Any or all of these cofactors—along with others such as exercise, the environment where a person lives, an individual’s age, or their ability to access/afford the health care system—can influence a disease progression.

HIV Disease Continuum

Initial
Asymptomatic
AIDS

Initial Infection occurs when the virus enters the blood stream and takes hold. This is often associated with mono-like symptoms. Once infected, a person is infected forever.

Asymptomatic HIV infection is when the person is infected, but shows no obvious signs or symptoms of the illness. HIV has a median asymptomatic (latency) phase of about 10 years.

Even prior to a diagnosis of AIDS, a person living with HIV may develop several kinds of generalized symptoms. These symptoms are not otherwise associated with other potential illnesses. These symptoms include:

  • Persistent Generalized Lymphadenopathy (Swollen Lymph Glands)
  • Nausea
  • Night Sweats
  • Weight Loss
  • Headaches
  • Fever
  • Diarrhea
  • Thrush (yeast infection)

AIDS is the end stage of HIV disease. This occurs when an individual is HIV+ and begins experiencing opportunistic infections associated with an AIDS diagnosis or when his/her CD4 white blood cell count drops below 200/mm³. (Individuals may progress to full-blown AIDS without having “generalized” symptomatic HIV symptoms.)

It should be noted that once someone has received an AIDS diagnosis, it remains with them for life. Even if they beat an opportunistic infection, their CD4 count goes back up over 200, and their viral load becomes undetectable, they are considered to have AIDS.

 

CD4 cell count classification for adults
Cells/cubic millimeter
1200 - 800
Normal
800 - 500
Low Normal
500 - 200
Immune Compromised
200 or less
Severely Compromised


Opportunistic Infections

There are currently about 28 official opportunistic infections associated with AIDS, as defined by the Center for Disease Control. Some of the more common include:

Pneumocystis Carinii Pneumonia (PCP)
This parasitic infection affects the lungs and causes extreme difficulty breathing, disorientation, headaches, and chest pain. It can also spread and cause damage to other organs. There are treatments available to prevent and overcome PCP, and greater than 90% of people with AIDS recover from their first bout. Most people infected with the causal organism of PCP were infected as children.

Kaposi’s Sarcoma (KS)
This is a rare cancer of the blood vessels that produces bluish/brown lesions on the body. These lesions are hard and raised above the skin. Though they might be unsightly, they are not contagious. When these lesions are internal (e.g. in the spleen, lungs or heart) they can be fatal.

Cytomegalovirus (CMV)
This disease is usually sexually transmitted and is related to the herpes virus family. The most common problem associated with it is Retinitis, which can lead to blindness. This OI is usually seen in the later stage of AIDS.

Toxoplasmosis Encephalitis (Toxo)
This parasitic infection is found in soil, in the feces of animals that dig in soil, or under-cooked meat. One of the most common OIs to affect the central nervous system, Toxo causes infection in the brain (memory loss and motor control difficulties.) It is estimated that half of the US population is infected with the parasite.

Cryptosporidiosis (Crypto)
This is a parasitic infection of the intestines that causes mal-absorption and severe diarrhea. The disease is spread through contaminated water, fecal-oral contact, or eating contaminated raw foods. Unable to keep food down or stay adequately hydrated, this disease causes rapid weight loss in the people it infects.

How do you prevent it?
The best way to prevent HIV infection is to use latex or polyurethane condoms with water/silicone-based lubes every time you fuck. Other than that, avoid getting cum and/or blood in your body. You can use flavored condoms for sucking cock, or just avoid getting cum or pre-cum in your mouth. If you have any sores or cuts in your mouth (even from flossing or brushing your teeth) that is a way for HIV to get into your system. It takes your mouth about 4 hours to heal itself, so you might want to wait that long between brushing and sucking cock. You can also try just jerking each other off, especially with guys who are anonymous. Cutting down the number of guys you have sex with and talking to your sex partners about getting tested and/or using condoms are other ways to reduce your risk of HIV infection.

Also, if you are injecting drugs, do not share your needles or works with others. You should always clean your gear, and you can get new needles from the needle exchange. Sharing needles is also the easiest way to spread hepatitis C - which can live in your works even after you’ve cleaned them. If you are HIV-positive, that increases your chance of hep C infection. That is why it is so important to not share.

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