April 10, 2019 Critical Thinking

HIV, also known as, Human Immunodeficiency Virus is a devastating, heartbreaking virus that negatively affects how the immune system fights off infection, and can actually even lead to AIDS. When hearing the words HIV and AIDS, many questions can appear. Is it even possible for someone to die from HIV and/or AIDS? How do you acquire HIV/AIDS? Is there any possible treatment or procedure that you would need to undergo to get rid of this virus?
So many questions, tied along with so many fears. When first seeing this topic on the whiteboard, it went over my head that HIV is a deadly virus. I knew that it is very serious, but I forgot about the fact that it is deadly. In fact, out of the 70 million people that have been affected by Human Immunodeficiency Virus, 35 million people died. That’s half of the people diagnosed. It’s a staggeringly high number that commonly goes unnoticed. And even more so, some people are completely unaware that they have it due to the flu-like symptoms of HIV. Most people assume that they just have a type of influenza instead of Human Immunodeficiency Virus.
At the end of 2016, approximately 36.7 million people across the world were affected with Human Immunodeficiency Virus, and of those 36.7 million people, about 2.1 million were children. Furthermore, there are approximately 5,000 new cases of HIV daily.
But before I go into any more statistics, let’s dig down deep and really understand what HIV is. HIV can be spread by blood, sexual fluids, breastfeeding, and the list goes on and on. Like I previously have mentioned, Human Immunodeficiency Virus weakens your body’s ability to fight off pathogens and germs. To continue, this leads to AIDS which stands for Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is essentially the stage where your immune system can’t fight off germs anymore and you continuously keep getting sick. AIDS is also the stage that individuals have a very low risk of surviving and enduring the virus.
HIV can be spread in many different and unexpected ways. It can be spread if you go to the doctor and use an unclean needle that was previously used by someone containing the virus. It is commonly spread through unprotected sexual activity and breastfeeding, since they both are direct contact. However, many cases have previously shown up from unclean, shared needles used for drugs that are injected into others. The difference is that HIV isn’t spread through ALL bodily fluids. For instance, HIV cannot be shared through the contact of sweat, tears, saliva, or urine. Another misconception is that you can get HIV from sitting on the same toilet seat as someone who has HIV, which is not true. HIV doesn’t live on certain objects such as a toilet seat. Also, individuals containing HIV are not permissible to donate blood for any cause, due to the virus that lives inside of them.
But a question that lingers is how did HIV even start? When and where was the first case? Although no one knows the very first case of HIV, the main breakout started in 1980. Many similar cases came to medical regions with the same complaints and then, finally was established at Human Immunodeficiency Virus. Many cases were diagnosed after the establishment of the virus. The virus even dated back to symptoms experienced by patients over ten years ago! HIV is believed to have originated in Kinshasa, which is located in the Democratic Republic of Congo. Supposedly, the virus started when chimpanzees passed it along to humans through bodily fluid contact. The virus had quite the outbreak, and over a short period of time, the virus was already diagnosed in five continents – North America, Europe, South America, Africa, and Australia. During the beginning of this outbreak, approximately 300,000 people were infected and doctors had not even the slightest bit of idea on how to cure this wide-spread virus.
Thankfully though, there is a treatment now for HIV. Although the treatment doesn’t fully eliminate the virus in your body, it slowly takes care of it and makes it less severe. This treatment is known as ART which stands for Antiretroviral Therapy. This therapy consists of drugs that slow down the virus and that help the beginning process of fighting off other germs and bacteria. ART has been prescribed to those who have HIV ever since the mid 1990’s, and since then, the annual death toll caused by HIV has dropped very evidently.
People question if the treatment is even useful to take, since it doesn’t take care of the virus completely, and in my eyes I believe that it is very useful. Although it doesn’t diminish the virus completely and quickly, the treatment has very many useful benefits. Studies have shown that individuals that are affected by the HIV virus that don’t seek treatment are at very high risk of developing AIDS, as opposed to those who are affected by HIV and do seek treatment. Also, if you were to have HIV and decide to go untreated, there are many other viruses that can team up with HIV affecting your immune system even more and even affecting the number of cells in your body. Lastly, without treatment, you are prone to getting an opportunistic infection, which is a type of infection that typically doesn’t affect people who have good immune systems. However, since HIV ruins the majority of your immune system, you are very prone to getting this infection. An opportunistic infection weakens the immune system even more than HIV already has weakened it.
However, although ART is more beneficial than harmful, it still has its negative side effects. When individuals seek this treatment, it is very common that they experience even more symptoms tied into illness. These symptoms include vomiting, difficulty sleeping, fatigue, headaches, and much more. Also, if you were to miss a day of treatment of ART, it is a great risk to your future health and the recovery process of your HIV virus. Missing your ART treatment for even just one day can be detrimental in the fact that it can limit any future treatment plans. But like I have previously mentioned, there is more benefit of ART than harm, because it slowly treats and slows down the traveling virus.
When I was first assigned this topic of Human Immunodeficiency Virus, I wasn’t quite sure how serious it truly was. This virus is commonly forgotten and not taken seriously enough. Out of over seven billion people in the world, almost 36.7 million people have contained this deadly virus, and have come to the realization that there is no way to properly, efficiently, and completely take care of it. They have the thought in the back of their heads of passing this deadly virus to the ones they love the most. Human Immunodeficiency Virus is devastating. It affects not only the individual that contains it, but also the friends and family of that certain individual, and I truly believe that HIV deserves more awareness.