HIV infection (AIDS): what is it?
A complete study with useful
and detailed references
The main HIV-related information
Everyone should know this about HIV:
Persons at risk and risk factors
HIV is transmitted through body fluids: blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk. These body fluids only transmit HIV if they come into contact with an area that allows HIV to enter the body, a mucous membrane. Healthy skin is impermeable to HIV.
Most often, the virus is contracted through unprotected sexual activity or was contracted in the past through needle exchange among injection drug users. Contrarily to what one might think, the risk of transmission through kissing with saliva exchange is zero.
How to protect yourself?
HIV is easily preventable!
The male condom is a latex, polyurethane or polyisoprene membrane. It protects against HIV infection and other sexually transmitted infections (STIs). It is single-use and is placed on the erect penis just before vaginal or anal penetration.
The female condom is a large, flexible sheath that is inserted into the vagina to line the walls of the vagina. The female condom has the advantage that it can be put on several hours before intercourse. It is a single-use condom.
How do you test for HIV?
When someone has taken a risk, it can take up to 6 weeks for the contamination to be detectable in the blood (in France, HIV tests carried out from a blood sample are totally reliable after 6 weeks).
Timing is key
An infected person who tests too early could have a negative result and still carry the virus. In this case, he or she would not be able to be treated and could unknowingly infect others.
What do the treatments do?
There is no cure for HIV/AIDS. Current treatments slow down the progression of the disease and improve the living conditions of the sick. In the most developed countries, deaths due to AIDS have fallen sharply since the widespread use of multi-drug therapy. Some HIV-positive people cannot tolerate these drugs (serious side effects) or are unable to take them regularly. In France, any person suffering from HIV can benefit from social and medical care.
Carried out for years in a relatively haphazard manner, the therapy is now based on a more solid foundation; the HIV virus is never 100% identical to itself. It is therefore necessary to know precisely the “specific” virus of the patient to be treated. Two tests are available: the genotypic test which determines the genetic modifications of the virus’ components and the the phenotypic one which determines the potential efficacy of each drug on the patient’s own viral strain.
Action of the virus inside the target cell
Its objective is to integrate its genetic heritage into that of the target cell
Viral DNA can find a place in the character string of cellular DNA; however, it can only integrate in certain positions.
Spread of the virus
Once its “bad work” has been accomplished, the virus tries to “reconstitute” itself in order to continue its detestable behaviour in another cell.
Treatment's efficiency markers
How can you make sure the treatment is making things better?
Two markers are currently commonly and exclusively used: the “viral load” (CV) and the number of “CD4 cells” contained in the plasma.