Understanding HIV/AIDS

HIV in the blood

Since 1981 the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) has been wreaking havoc on the world. In this article we will provide the most important facts about HIV/AIDS so that you can better know the disease.

What is HIV and AIDS

HIV is the short of Human Immunodeficiency Virus and AIDS is Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome. AIDS is a disease caused by a virus, HIV.
– Acquired: contracted during life, that is not inherited;
– Immune deficiency: weakened immune system;
– Syndrome: set of symptoms and signs.

When a person is HIV-positive, the virus is in his or her body with usually no symptoms. 8-10 years average untreated, the person looks and feels completely healthy, but anyone with HIV can transmit the virus. The virus weakens the immune system slowly. There are 2 types of viruses: HIV-1 is the most common type in USA, UK and HIV-2 is found mainly in West Africa and generally produces a milder variant of the disease. When the immune system is impaired, it is more susceptible to diseases, especially infections (eg tuberculosis and pneumonia) and tumors. AIDS is an advanced stage of the disease it means that, as a result of immunodeficiency, the person has a or more of a list of rare diseases.

What HIV does in the body

HIV reproduces constantly spreading in contaminated body cells in the begining stage. To defend itself, the body creates particular antibodies but can not {get rid of|eradicate} HIV. The percentage of virus in the blood goes down, however the virus remains present and keeps progressing in other organs.

For quite some time (8-10 years), the body stays in a state of apparent balance, however HIV continues to be actively spreading in the cells as well as infecting new ones.

Lymphocytes CD4 (or T4)

HIV can attack various types of cell, but it is especially interested in the CD4 (or T4) cells, that lead the body’s defense mechanisms functions.

From the first time the HIV infection occurs, the virus engages in constant replication (multiplication) creating additional viruses. CD4 lymphocytes, lead the war against HIV to combat viral expansion. Consequently the amount of CD4 cells diminishes more and more and, without medical treatment to support them, after approximately 8-10 years their numbers will fall at a point that the sufferer could become vulnerable to serious bacterial infections and tumors.


The body produces them to combat any sort of foreign bodies (towards contagious or non-infectious agents). Approximately, HIV antibodies start to show up from 2 to 8 weeks following the entrance of the virus in the body. Hence, the existence of antibodies is an indication of infection. The purpose of diagnostic tests such as the Elisa, is to look specifically for the existence of antibodies. Therefore, for the result of these tests to be conclusive, they must be performed after some time since the last contact risk.

HIV symptoms

There are no specific symptoms of HIV, this is why this infection is callled asymptomatic, especially in the early years and in general for a long time. The only way to confirm the existence of HIV is through an HIV test on a blood sample. However, some people said they had experienced a pseudo-flu symptoms between 2 and 5 weeks after infection. But they usually do not pay attention to that because there are no reported cases and symptoms would be like the flu. Therefore, the only way to know whether any infection is to be tested for HIV three months after the risk contact.

When the virus weakens the immune system slowly and would be at an average of 8-10 years without treatment (would have developed the disease and the immune system would be badly damaged), then the following symptoms appear:
– Sudden weight loss greater than 10%
– Fever or night sweats for more than a month
– Chronic diarrhea for more than a month
– Persistent and severe fatigue
– Other side AIDS symptoms: dry cough for over a month, rashes, mouth ulcers, fungi in the mouth and throat, herpes and swollen glands.

How it is transmitted

HIV is transmitted through three channels:

For the virus enters the body have to contact:
– An’infecting’ fluid: blood, semen, vaginal secretions or breast milk. Just those four fluids transmit the virus. The rest – saliva, tears, sweat …- contain insufficient concentration of virus to transmit

– An entry: mucous membranes (semipermeable membranes) lining the mouth, vagina, penis and rectum.
Skin breaks (bleeding wounds).

HIV is not spread by …

– Tears, sweat, coughing, saliva, sneezing …
– Sharing space (office, school, gym …) or objects commonly used in school life, work or social: cutlery, glasses, food, clothing, furniture, telephones …
– Shaking hands, hugging or kissing.
– Sharing showers, sinks, or toilets
– Stings or insect bites pets.
– By giving or receiving blood, in countries where control is adequate. The blood donation is systematically analyzed.

HIV Testing and Treatment

HIV treatment

If you had a risky practice is advisable to have the HIV testing and repeat it after three months so that the test results are reliable. If there has been a risky practice, it is important to go to the health center or other facility where they can make the proof.
It is recommended to get tested if:
– You are pregnant or think to be.
– If you have had sexual intercourse without a condom with one or more partners who were unaware of whether they were infected or not
– You have shared injection equipment for drug use.
– You have had any sexually transmitted infection (STI), tuberculosis or hepatitis.
– You want to stop using condoms with your regular partner.

After all, it costs nothing and is the only way to ensure that there has been no infection. The test is free and confidential. Any person, man or woman, can be infected with HIV if you have been exposed to infection through sex or blood.

What is HIV testing

The HIV test is a simple blood test. It is free, voluntary and confidential. There are places where it can also be made anonymously. HIV testing is specific. No blood test for another purpose can be done to detect the virus. An HIV test must be specifically requested.

The body takes time (different for each person), to generate specific antibodies against HIV. There are people who have two or three weeks. However, statistically we know that at 8 weeks (2 months) for the vast majority of people (95%), the body will have generated HIV antibodies. To cover the 5% missing, a period of 90 days (3 months), is considered necessary for testing after the contact to ensure positive or negative result.

Types of tests

1- 4th generation HIV Testing or combined test (Combo)

Currently, in USA, 4th generation test or combined test is performed (in most health centers). It consists in detecting in same sample, of antibodies to HIV-1 and HIV-2 and P24 viral antigen.

If the test is quick:
– Taken from the 3rd week of possible infection, it often allows early detection of the presence of HIV and early treatment.
– A positive result, must always be confirmed (usually by the Western Blot).
– A negative result, within 45 days, following the contact risk reaches 95% reliability, and requires repeat testing 90 days after the contact risk to get considered final.

If it is laboratory test (not fast):
– The negative result after 45 days in the practice of risk, is final in 99.78%.
– Any positive test result requires confirmation, as noted above.

2. Rapid tests

These are analytical detection of antibodies that can be performed on blood, gingival tissue (saliva) and urine. At present, some of them are combined, detect antibodies to both HIV-1 and HIV-2 well as the P24 antigen, and there are also 3rd generation. The speed of the test refers to the fact that the results are available in just 30 minutes. However, it is important to know that a negative result before 3 months is inconclusive and the test should be repeated when 90 days have passed, to consider it definitive. Any positive result must be confirmed with a more specific analytical, usually the Western Blot. They are very useful in situations that require an immediate result.

3. PCR

This test is a direct detection of the virus. After 15 days of exposure to risk, it has high reliability. This is the demonstration of viral genome using molecular biology techniques. This method is reserved for special situations: studies of genetic variability, newborn diagnosis, screening of donors, monitoring of HIV-positive patients, etc.
However, as in previous cases, it is not conclusive and a screening test of antibodies should be done when they have passed 12 weeks to consider the final negative. This is because in some cases have been reported false results, both negative and positive.
This test is not usually done in public health, except in hospitals in very specific cases.

HIV testing is an informed and consensual evidence: no one can do an HIV test without informing and ask the express consent of the person.

Treatment for HIV

There is no vaccine or cure for HIV.  But there is a treatment: antiretroviral therapy.

Overview of the Antiretroviral therapy

The antiretroviral therapy (ART) involves implementation of a number of drugs that aim to prevent replication of the virus and restore the patient’s immune system. Currently, treatment consists of a combination of several drugs.

Antiretroviral drugs are highly effective, delaying the progression of HIV infection and increase survival of patients. The currently available ART does not eliminate the virus from the body, but prolongs the life and health by reducing the adverse effects of HIV on the immune system.

The therapy is individualized and must be prescribed, revised and amended by the experts who track the infected person.

Every affected person should decide when to start drug treatment after being properly informed by his doctor that have been previously assessed the state of HIV infection.

Treatment helps the virus does not multiply, reducing its presence in the body. Therefore lowers viral load and this reduces the ability to transmit the virus (although any person can transmit HIV positive, even if the viral load is undetectable).

In relation to this therapy is very important good adherence to treatment (taking doses indicated and meeting schedules). Otherwise, it decreases the concentration of drug in the blood and increasing the risk of the virus becoming resistant to antiretrovirals used and they lose efficiency. It is also important to follow the diet indicated.

The therapy therefore requires perseverance, but has improved so much life expectancy that HIV and AIDS is said now a chronic disease.

International fact

In many countries, access to testing and treatment for HIV is not guaranteed. Because of the many undetected cases, the spread is facilitated. Millions of people die every year because of HIV. Lack of access to treatment violates human rights. In addition, the spread of the pandemic in any country in the world is a global problem affecting all others.

HIV/AIDS and Cervical Cancer

Cervical Cancer Picture

Precancerous cervical lesions are the precursors of cervical cancer and infection by the human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most important risk factor for its development. Cervical cancer, one of the most common gynecologic cancers worldwide, is also officially considered an AIDS-defining illness.

The cervix is ​​located at the bottom of the uterus (or matrix)

HPV can cause warts (small, outgoing and hard lumps that grow in groups, can be felt with the finger and are visible to the naked eye), which are formed in or around the vagina or anus. These warts are also called condylomata acuminata or genital warts. Genital warts rarely develop into cancer, but its presence may mean that there is also precancerous dysplasia, which requires a specific analysis.

What are precancerous cervical lesions?

They are the most important and common gynecological manifestations in women living with HIV. They are in the form of so-called squamous intraepithelial lesions or cervical intraepithelial neoplasia (CIN). These lesions are divided into low-grade CIN or (CIN-I) or high-grade CIN (CIN II or III). The degree of dysplasia is defined by the thickness of abnormal cells within the cervical wall.

Precancerous lesions of the cervix also called cervical dysplasia and involves the presence of abnormal cells in the cervix.

In seronegative women, precancerous cervical lesions are cured in most cases after treatment. However, women living with HIV are less successful and particularly high rates of recurrence of these lesions. Recurrence or persistence of precancerous cervical lesions are closely related to the degree of immunosuppression.

Not all women with precancerous cervical lesions will develop cervical cancer. Many low-grade CIN lesions (CIN I) are self-limiting and do not require treatment.

What is cervical cancer?

The invasive carcinoma of the cervix or cervical cancer, unlike precancerous lesions, produces clinical symptoms and is often presented in the form of a neck, extended or mass to adjacent structures. The presence of inguinal lymphadenopathy (swollen glands) and edema (swelling from fluid accumulation), usually in the legs, indicating that the disease has spread (metastasized).

In women with HIV infection, metastases (ie the cancer has invaded other body parts) occur more frequently and rapidly than in seronegative women and leap from unusual regions.

What is the cause?

The cervical infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is the most important risk factor in the development of precancerous lesions and cervical cancer associated with oncogenic subtypes (which can cause cancer) of HPV.

The human papillomavirus (HPV) is the name that refers to a family of viruses that includes more than 100 subtypes of which over 30 are sexually transmitted. Some of these subtypes cause genital and anal warts, other (16, 18, 31, 33) can cause cervical cancer in women and anal cancer in both sexes.

What are the symptoms of precancerous cervical lesions?

Precancerous cervical lesions generally do not result in noticeable symptoms.

What are the symptoms of cervical cancer?

Invasive cervical carcinoma unlike precancerous lesions, resulting in clinical symptoms (visible). The most common symptoms of cervical cancer include vaginal bleeding intermittently, the coitorragia (bleeding during intercourse) and increased vaginal discharge smelly. Other symptoms that are more often associated with advanced disease are: pelvic pain (in the lower stomach area) pain in the lower back or lower extremities and changes in urination and bowel movements. Read more at “Cervical Cancer Symptoms and Signs – Dr Jennifer Ashton”.

How precancerous cervical lesions and cervical cancer diagnosed?

A blood test is sufficient to determine whether a person is infected with HPV. However, the presence of HPV does not mean a person will develop precancerous lesions or cervical cancer.

According to official recommendations, women with HIV should have cervical cytology (Pap smear) every six months after diagnosis and annually, once they have won two consecutive negative results. Despite these recommendations, many physicians recommend doing a Pap smear every six months due to the high number of false negative cytology found in women with HIV infection.

Cytology involves taking a sample from the cervix and examined under a microscope.

The presence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) produces alterations in the surface of cells of the cervical mucus and / or inflammation of the mucosa which can lead to false negative cytology, hiding the presence of precancerous lesions. Should abnormal cytology detected, other tests (colposcopy, biopsies, detailed anogenital examination) are performed to determine the presence of cervical cancer.

Image source: Cervical Cancer Pictures – DrJenniferAshton.com

HIV and High Cholesterol

HIV and high cholesterol

Beyond the complications that can produce HIV on the body and blood parameters, such as cholesterol levels [1], there are other reasons why a relationship between the increase of cholesterol with HIV, that must be taken into account. Thanks to medicines and science, today HIV is a controlled disease that has become chronic, reducing the mortality rate. But these same drugs can cause certain side effects such as increased cholesterol.

The combined antiretroviral therapy (especially protease inhibitors) causes undesired effects of increasing cholesterol levels in blood. A look on triglycerides levels also shows that they are altered, causing a mixed dyslipidemia.

According to certain scientific research, the effects of these drugs for the treatment of HIV are similar to the effect known as metabolic syndrome, a syndrome in which a number of parameters, such as cholesterol, triglycerides and glucose are altered and augmented.

Beyond the mechanism of action of drugs for HIV, the virus affects the production of HDL cholesterol in the liver, thus its low concentration in the blood and lower protective effect on cardiovascular system as well.

On the other hand when a person with HIV starts to recover, their nutritional status as well, which can influence the increase in blood cholesterol due to increased intake of certain foods.

In these cases, if the concentration of cholesterol has increased, the doctor will have in their hands the decision to provide the appropriate medication to reduce and control to avoid complications that may affect HIV syndrome. Nor should we forget the importance of a proper diet, a cholesterol lowering diet [2] that not only reduces cholesterol, but also raise defenses to prevent the entry of other agents that may benefit from the presence of HIV. Also, the physical activity is useful because it improves health and mood.


1- Normal Cholesterol Levels Chart – Total, LDL, HDL, Triglycerides

2- A Healthy Low Cholesterol Diet Plan in 15 Easy Steps – Cholesterolmenu.com

How to Prevent HIV infection

Condom Prevents HIV Sexual Transmission

As said in our previous article on “Understanding HIV/AIDS”, HIV is transmitted through three channels: sexual contact, blood, mother to infant. Thus prevention involves avoiding the transmission via these 3 channels.

Avoiding sexual transmission

To prevent HIV transmission through sex:
– Correctly use a condom (male / female) in each -vaginal sex with penetration, anal or oral.
– Maintaining relationships with one partner who is not infected and that in turn has sex only with you.
– Sex without penetration: petting, cuddling, games, mutual masturbation, etc.

Do lubricants, spermicides, microbicides help?


It is convenient to use lubricants always in anal intercourse and vaginal intercourse when the woman is not sufficiently lubricated. They facilitate the penetration and reduce the risk of condom breakage.

* Soluble lubricants (such as petroleum jelly, paraffin oils, creams and body lotions, etc.) can not be used with latex condoms because they deteriorate.

* Water soluble lubricants (silicone or glycerin) may be used either as polyurethane latex. They can be found at any drugstore or stores or sex shops. When buying, we must look at the expiration date and if they are medically approved.


Using spermicides does not increase the protection against HIV. On the contrary, some spermicides, if used continuously, can favor the appearance of irritation and vaginal lesions which would increase the risk of transmission.


Theses are vaginal or rectal creams, foams or gels, used to prevent HIV infection, but are not yet sold. They are under investigation.

Preventing transmission via blood

– Do not share equipment for drug use
– Always use sterile equipment: needles, spoons, plugs, filters, etc …
– Sterilize or single use instruments used to puncture the skin: acupuncture needles, tattoos, piercing.
– Do not share personal grooming instruments that come into contact with blood, razors, toothbrushes …

HIV survives a short time outside the body: 90-99% of HIV in a fluid existing outside the organism is inactivated within a few minutes to a few hours. Additionally, heat and chemicals such as bleach pull them out.

First aid measures:
– Wash hands before and immediately after.
– Avoid contact with open wounds, especially if you have wounds on your hands. Use latex gloves.
– Try not to cut with objects that have been cut to someone else.
– Wear gloves and use bleach to clean the blood of the area.

Preventing Vertical Transmission (from mother to infant)

First you have to consult a gynecologist. He is the best adviser to run the minimum risk. The test for HIV is indicated in all pregnant women or considering having a child. There are treatments administered early that greatly decrease the risk of HIV transmission during pregnancy and childbirth. Do not breast-feed the baby if the mother is infected with HIV. An HIV positive woman can legally terminate her pregnancy.

Sexually Transmitted Diseases (STDs) Explained

types of sexually transmitted diseases STDs

There are more than 20 sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) and infections that are contracted through sexual contact. In general, they can be treated and cured, but the most important is to take good measures for preventing them. This prevention is important because most STDs do not always produce signs or symptoms from the contagion, that is, a person who has the disease may be transmitting to another person and without even knowing it.

How are they produced?

The most important STDs are: Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), Human Papillomavirus (HPV), gonorrhea, Herpes Simplex Virus (HSV), chlamydia, syphilis, trichomonas, Hepatitis C Virus and B Virus (HCV and HBV). The mode of transmission is through sexual contact, whether vaginal, anal or oral and symptoms can range from mild vaginal discharge and irritation to severe pain. Often, the symptoms only occur when the disease is in an advanced stage. In most of these diseases, it is possible to curb the evolution if detected early.

The risk of getting an STD is greater if you have or have had more than one sexual partner, or a partner who has had or has more than one sexual partner, or if relations are maintained with a person who has a sexually transmitted disease or if there is a history of sexually transmitted diseases, or by injecting drug (injected into a vein) or the couple used the same needles to inject drug while one is infected.

STDs are caused by bacteria or viruses. To treat them, we can use antibiotics, but for those caused by viruses, antibiotics will not eradicate the disease.

Who can contract them?

All sexually active people may be exposed to a sexually transmitted disease. Although no symptoms, there is evidence that can be done to diagnose the infection. Most importantly, however, it is to make a good primary prevention to avoid infection.

STDs are a cause of significant morbidity in both men and women, but its incidence is greater in women for different reasons: their symptoms are more often apparent in women, there is an important relationship with pelvic inflammatory disease, ectopic pregnancy, infertility, abortion and poor perinatal outcomes, as well as transmission to the newborn.


To reduce the chances of contracting an STD, it is necessary to: ​​

– Limit the number of sexual partners. The history of the sexual partner is as important as ours. The more partners you have, the greater the risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

– Use a condom, which not only prevents unwanted pregnancies but also as an essential tool in preventing such infections.

– Avoid risky sexual acts: sexual acts that tear or break the skin carry a higher risk of contracting sexually transmitted diseases.

– Limit or avoid anal sex as it carries a higher risk because the rectal tissues tear easily.

– Note that body fluids can also transmit STDs. The unprotected sexual contact with an infected person carries a high risk of contracting a sexually transmitted disease.

– Another measure is the HBV and HPV vaccination.

Concerns About the Increase of STDs in USA

sexually transmitted diseases

In recent decades and as a result of the implementation of awareness campaigns, it was possible to reduce the incidence of sexually transmitted diseases (STDs) in United States. However, recently it has been detected an alarming increase in the incidence of some infections such as syphilis, genital herpes, chlamydia or gonococcus.

Preventive Medicine Specialists attribute the increase to the lack of awareness of the possible risk of contagion by the population. The use of preventive measures such as condoms has been substantially reduced. Furthermore, the fact that some infections can have long latency times (eg HIV) or even not produce symptoms (eg some cases of genital herpes , gonococcus, chlamydia) can also support this increase.

The key point to reduce STD probably lies at the start of advertising campaigns and health education. Importantly, most STDs can be transmitted both via vaginal and anal intercourse, and oral sex. Another fact to note is the need to see a doctor or specialist in cases of sexual contact risk to perform the necessary tests and sometimes even initiate empirical treatment.

Most STDs like chlamydia , the genital herpes or gonococcal have a short latency period and symptoms appear early on. In contrast, HIV often have a long latency time, even years. Therefore, before any sexual contact of risk, we must make a screening for the most common STD, having symptoms or not. Finally, in recent years it has been detected an increase in the incidence of syphilis especially among gay men. This infection can be successfully eradicated using penicillin, but if not managed properly, can generate potentially serious complications .

In conclusion, in this post we try to participate in the awareness of the population to the risk of STDs and the need to use protective measures such as condoms. Before any sexual contact risk, you must go to a doctor to do one STD screening.

An Overview of HPV Infection in Men

HPV in men

The genital infection with human papillomavirus (HPV) is highly prevalent and can have several clinical forms. It is a sexually transmitted disease as it spreads by contact with mucus.

In the male genital apparatus the most common form of presentation is asymptomatic, ie, does not usually cause any injury or symptom. Usually it has a silent course and HPV is usually eradicated by the immune system of the patient.

On the other hand, certain serotypes (types of HPV) can cause the formation of warts or genital warts . These can be single or multiple and can occur anywhere of the genital area (base of the penis, scrotum, glans, prepuce, etc.). In people with immune disorders or some kind of immunodeficiency (eg HIV), they can achieve very significant sizes and produce significant discomfort. The warts can remain stable, increase in size with time or disappear spontaneously. Occasionally, they may disappear by topical treatments but in many cases need to be removed by surgery or cryotherapy. Certain, HPV types may increase the risk for cancer of the penis .

A characteristic of HPV, is that although no macroscopic lesions, it may remain silent and make a patient asymptomatic carrier. Thus, it could be a source of infection or injury at any time, often as a result of decreased immune function. The diagnosis of genital lesions secondary to HPV is by clinical examination . There are microbiological tests such as PCR of the virus in a smear of injury that can help the diagnosis, but they are not infallible. Sometimes it is difficult to detect asymptomatic carriers and there is no diagnostic test ensuring high reliability.

In conclusion, HPV infection in men is highly prevalent and can be asymptomatic or cause the appearance of genital lesions. The treatment will be administered by the appearance of these lesions.