Just a few decades ago, very little one was known about the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) and its advanced disease state, Acquired Immunodeficiency Syndrome (AIDS) but today, thanks to medical research, massive funding efforts and public health education campaigns, we now know much more about these diseases, how to prevent them and how to treat them.
HIV is the virus that causes AIDS. HIV is transmitted from an infected person to another individual via blood, semen, vaginal fluid or breast milk. HIV attacks the body immune system by destroying the very crucial CD4 Positive T white blood cells which are necessary for the proper functioning of the immune system.
Over time, the immune system inevitably weakens as more and more CD4 T cells are destroyed by the virus. When an individual acquires one or more opportunistic infections, a type of infection that does not cause a disease state in a healthy individual or has an extremely low CD4 T-cell count, he or she is diagnosed with AIDS.
Although there is still no cure for HIV/AIDS, there are a variety of medications that slow the progression of the HIV virus by suppressing its replication. This class of drugs known as antiretrovirals (ARVs) have significantly extended the lifespan of a person living with HIV and improved quality of life. Antiretrovirals are very costly and unfortunately, most of the world affected by this disease does not have adequate access to these life-extending medications. Today, research is being done to increase the efficacy and simplicity of drugs, reduce their side effects and reduce risk of drug resistance in addition to improving global policies to provide wider access to affordable HIV/AIDS medications to those regions that are disproportionately affected by the disease.