AIDS and HIV

AIDS (acquired immunodeficiency syndrome) is a disease that affects the body’s natural immune system; this disease is caused by the HIV virus (human immunodeficiency virus).

 

This virus gradually destroys the immune system, which makes the body unable to fight off infections and certain cancers.

HIV transmission

People can get infected with HIV through the following ways:

  • Unprotected sex
  • The usage of the same syringe (it is commonly spread among injectable drug users)
  • Blood transfusions
  • From mother to child during pregnancy, natural birth and through breastfeeding
  • The virus cannot be transmitted through saliva, physical contact, handshakes, biting insects, etc.

Treatment

Nowadays, there is some treatment available that can treat HIV virus and associated infections, reducing the mortality rate. In developed countries antiretroviral drugs are available, and often the treatment is subsidized by the state or by certain foundations.

HIV/AIDS and women

Certain diseases and symptoms occur more often in women who are HIV positive and are more severe:

  • Chronic and severe vaginal yeast infections
  • Pelvic inflammatory disease
  • Human papillomavirus (HPV) infections

Around the world there are 19.2 million women who are suffering from HIV/AIDS. Also women are more likely to contract the virus, because most infections are spread through unprotected heterosexual sex. Regarding ethnic groups, HIV infections are rising more among African American and Hispanic women.

In 2009, there were around 33.3 million people suffering from AIDS around the world, among which 15.9 million women, and 2.5 million children.

The disease is most spread in Sub-Saharian Africa, North Africa and Middle East, and least spread in North America, Western and Central Europe. At the end of 2009, there were 1.8 million AIDS-related deaths in adults & children.

In developing countries, over a half a million new-borns get infected with HIV because the mothers are not tested for HIV during pregnancy, medication is not always avaliable, nor safe and affordable baby formula that can replace breastfeeding.

HIV and pregnancy

Pregnancy is not dangerous for a woman who is HIV positive.

If the mother is infected, the baby will also be infected, but it will have antibodies to fight HIV, passed on from the mother. All newborns born from HIV positive women are tested for HIV. If not infected, the antibodies passed from the mother will dissapear over time.

If the father is HIV positive there are certain tehniques that can be used to “wash” the virus from the sperm, so it is not passed on.

During the pregnancy, HIV positive women need to watch their health very closely, especially infections and sexually transmitted diseases.

The risk of passing the virus from mother to child during pregnancy depends on the mother’s infection HIV level.

HIV treatment should be continued during pregnancy, or begun after the first three months of pregnancy. This reduces the spread of HIV infection and reduces the risk of transmission to the fetus.

Many combinations of drugs are used to manage HIV infection. If an HIVþpositive woman has been taking medications to treat HIV, she should continue the treatment during pregnancy. If she has not been taking medication, she usually should wait until after the first trimester to start. The drugs help to keep the viral load low and make it less likely that the baby will get HIV.

As other drugs administered during pregnancy, the ones used for treating HIV can affect the fetus: the baby can develop an anemia after being born, but it is easily treatable. The most important thing is not to interrupt the treatment against HIV and to keep the baby from being infected.

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