The Origins and Known First Case of HIV
The origin of the disease we now know as HIV is believed to be from non-human primates to human contact in the West Africa region. The first known case of HIV, or human immunodeficiency virus, appeared in 1959. The affected man was from The Republic of Congo, and he could not identify how he contracted the disease.
HIV Appears In The United States
The first few cases of HIV happened to be in homosexual men, which started a firestorm of speculation that only homosexual men could spread it. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) were the first to report the disease in the 1980s, as a flu-like illness that significantly weakened the immune system.
Lifespan of Patients In The 80s
When HIV was first discovered and people were contracting the disease, people usually didn’t live longer than eight years. Treatment was sparse, as the disease was misunderstood. It also spread quickly, as the first few individuals with the disease happened to be homosexual and infected others through sex.
Access To Information
The first HIV and AIDS organizations developed in the early 80s, in order to equip homosexual men with the information needed to protect themselves against the disease. This included the San Francisco AIDS Foundation, or SFAF, which sought to provide the latest developments about HIV.
Learning About HIV
In the mid-eighties, healthcare professionals learned more about HIV. Women were contracted the disease, revealing that the disease wasn’t only linked or spread by homosexual sex. The disease being spread through just casual physical contact, not sex, was ruled out. Doctors also found the disease could be spread in utero.
Ryan White, an 11-year-old middle school student, contracted HIV through a blood transfusion. After being bullied and suspended from school, White helped raise awareness and reduce the stigma associated with the disease. White lived into his late teens.
Rock Hudson, the first celebrity to be diagnosed with HIV, passed away in 1985. He left a sizeable donation that led to the creation of the AIDS Foundation, which has continued to help provide financial resources to patients and advance research on treatment methods and cures.
Some people still can’t even tell their infection status. HIV testing is still limited, just 54% of people who have the virus know they have it. The World Health Organization (WHO) is working on alternatives such as self testing that could help bridge the gap and provide people with more treatment resources.
1987 was a big year for HIV developments. The WHO, or the World Health Organization, started to work on compiling information about the disease and providing resources to the world. That spring, an antiretroviral drug called zidovudine was approved by the FDA.
The spring of 1987 also brought the release of a blood test kit to help detect the presence of HIV antibodies. Later that year, new information was released about HIV, such as the fact that a baby could get HIV from breast milk, providing expectant mothers with the opportunity to protect their children.
Methods for preventing PCP, an infection that often caused death in AIDS patients, were released in the late 80s. This was one of the first developments about preventing AIDS related deaths. Doctors continued to uncover new treatments and prevention tactics.
High Profile Patients
Ryan White passed away in 1990, followed by Magic Johnson announcing that he had HIV. This revelation was followed by a similar announcement by Freddie Mercury, a rock and roll star who, unfortunately, succumbed to his illness a mere 24 hours after his reveal.
The Early 90s
The early 90s brought on developments in HIV and AIDS treatments and medications such as AZT, which helped mothers prevent HIV from being spread to their children. The FDA also approved more aggressive methods of treatment called active antiretroviral treatment.
Global Awareness And Outreach
In 1995, there were nearly five million cases of HIV worldwide. Conferences and organizations were formed to help share, develop and provide information about prevention and new methods of treatments. This was a positive turning point for the AIDS community.
The Global Fund
A global fund was developed in the early 2000s, in order to provide financial support for patients and families living with AIDS. The development of The Global Fund was started by United Nations (UN) General Assembly, who insisted that financial support was needed.
Today, the most common treatment for HIV is antiretroviral therapy, otherwise known as ART. ART is a dedicated HIV regimen that combines different medications to help people with HIV extend their lifespan. Most people with HIV that haven’t progressed to AIDS still live long lives, near the national average.
People In The US
It’s not as common to die from AIDS today, with more complex treatments and a more sophisticated understanding of the disease. However, in the United States alone, 50,000 people still contract HIV annually. Many don’t have the proper access to treatment, nor the resources to determine whether or not they have the disease.
African American Men
African American men have become the largest demographic to struggle with contracting and treating HIV. African American men now make up 50% of people with HIV, with gay and bisexual men also counting for 50% of HIV cases. For African American men, only half receive the kind of treatment they need.
Contracting The Disease
The most common way that people contract HIV is through unprotected sex. People also contract the disease through drug equipment, sharing needles and unclean equipment. The best way to prevent HIV is through shared knowledge, frequent STD testing, and using condoms and clean equipment.
Treating HIV and AIDS Today
After 30 years of research, specific drugs have been developed for the treatment of HIV and AIDS. When the disease is caught early enough now, treatments can begin to prevent the development of AIDS. Most people that have HIV today actually live long, healthy lives.
In a lot of drug regimens for other diseases such as diabetes, drugs remain effective for a few days after treatment stops. With HIV however, treatment is extremely strict, as the drugs do not stay effective when they’re not used regularly. If someone even skips one day of medication, their treatment may fail altogether.
The Rise of Truvada
Truvada, a drug approved by the FDA in 2012, is used for treatment of HIV. While using Truvada, the user has a reduced risk of contracting the disease, up to 92%. The drug is taken daily and is a mix of tenofovir and emtricitabine. It prevents the virus from residing permanently and is usually taken with other prevention tactics.
Drugs Against HIV
In new developments, certain drugs can work to prevent babies from transmitting HIV. This is one of the latest advancements in HIV treatment. Many of these developments are listed on sites such as AIDS Map that track and update the world on information about the disease. The site also goes into more nuanced details about day-to-day living with HIV.
Babies & HIV
For couples with one partner that has HIV, there’s still the potential to have a baby that doesn’t have the disease. Many individuals are on an anti-HIV regimen, which is absolutely crucial for couples considering having a baby. Couples who have successfully conceived a baby without HIV have also used artificial insemination.
When couples are expecting a child,condoms should still be used. Women actually bear a greater risk of acquiring HIV during pregnancy, and the disease can be passed in utero. Mothers who are pregnant and have a partner with HIV should also take Truvada to help fight against contracting the disease.
Medications to Treat HIV
As technology has advanced, so have the medications to treat HIV. Older medications and treatments have a lot of side effects, and newer medications not only have less, but are incorporated into recommended regimens by doctors. The regimens enable doctors to give patients options dependent on their situation.
The sweeping costs of most HIV drugs prevent patients from getting constant, consistent care. Sometimes insurance companies don’t cover the entire cost for the drugs needed to treat HIV. The high cost of the medication can completely drain HIV patients of financial resources, and are a real threat to their health.
With the crippling cost of some pharmaceuticals, many patients turn to generic HIV medications. They’re 20% – 30% cheaper than the brand name drugs, and while the drugs have different dosages and may require extra medication, they’re still as effective. This option saves lives, as people are constantly seeking ways to save on these drugs.
Thanks to the development of generic HIV medications, large pharmaceutical companies succumbed to the pressure of lowering costs on HIV and AIDS medications. The opportunity to develop and distribute generic drugs was also spread to other countries.
Advancements in Treatments
For people with HIV, the disease is an everyday job. But thanks to new advancements, HIV patients that have been taking a treatment for two years with consistent counts between 300 and 500 cells now have the option of whether or not they need to monitor. Annual monitoring should still occur.
World Health Organization
The internet has enabled HIV patients to have constant access to information. The WHO, or the World Health Organization, has a plethora of resources providing information on clinical and health guidance for HIV patients. WHO also provides information for patients suffering from other diseases.
In early 2000, President George W. Bush made AIDS Relief a priority with a dynamic five year plan that provided financial resources to AIDS organizations. The program was put together in large part, to support impoverished companies that desperately needed assistance in treating the disease.
HIV Best Practices
Since HIV has been further researched since the 80s, a set of guidelines has formulated that describes treatment best practices. The guidelines put together by WHO about HIV discuss starting treatment as soon as possible. They also recommend starting ARVs from a CD4 of 350 cells to 500 cells, when the immune system is strongest. Patients who get early treatments have a longer life expectancy.
Pregnant With HIV
These guidelines extend to pregnant women with HIV, who need to start ART. The patient should continue ART throughout their pregnancy, with any children born with starting ART as soon as they’re diagnosed. Additional recommendations incorporate healthy living and additional check ups.
Out of The Shadows
New clinical developments and care programs have brought HIV out of the shadows. Activists are working on removing the stigma of the disease, trying to spread awareness about the disease to help infected individuals get the information and treatment they need.
Exposure to HIV
The care programs and activist work to help bring exposure to HIV are also specifically designed to promote ART, in order to get patients assistance. In addition to treating affected patients, ART can also be crucial for pregnant women with HIV positive partners.
New WHO Guidelines
The new WHO guidelines expand ART eligibility for nearly 26 million people. The antiretroviral drugs will be accessible for people in low to middle class countries, helping to treat and expand knowledge to patients suffering from the impact of the disease.
Due to new developments and technology, the number of HIV infections and AIDS related deaths are projected to decrease. With the expansion of accessibility to knowledge and medications, as well as the development of generic medicine, HIV patients are living longer than ever.
Post Exposure Prophylaxis
PEP, or Post Exposure Prophylaxis, can actually prevent HIV from infecting someone after exposure to the disease. After an individual has been knowingly exposed to HIV, they can take medications to help defend against the disease. Planned Parenthood has more information on the subject and continues to help spread awareness of this treatment.
Today, HIV and AIDS awareness is at an all-time high. Eligibility for HIV treatment is increasing in the United States, and the approval of PrEP by the FDA has enabled HIV-negative individuals to help successfully prevent acquiring HIV. Thanks to these initiatives, and the dedication to finding cures and treatments for the disease, AIDS related deaths are decreasing year over year.