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Treatment and Prevention of HIV

Tropical Medicine

Treatment and Prevention of HIV

HIV infection

HIV prevalence is increasing worldwide resulting in global pandemic. This disease is a major problem due to extraordinarily high mutation rate of the virus and resistance to existing drugs. The key to understanding HIV depends on better understanding of the virus, various components of the immune system and the complex signalling pathway. HIV is leading cause of death in Africa, sub-Saharan countries and even touched every corner of the United States.

Human Immunodeficiency Virus

Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a pathogen with the ability to replicate only inside a living cell, infecting humans and weakening immune system. HIV is an enveloped RNA virus that uses the host cell for multiplication and causes AIDS. AIDS describes a group of signs and symptoms that occur together and characterize a particular abnormality that decreases or weakens the bodys ability to fight off infections and illnesses. HIV infection leads to a weakened immune system by destroying the white blood cells, thus making a person vulnerable to infections. HIV is transmitted to another person through unprotected sexual contact with an infected partner, infected blood transfusion, by exposure to contaminated objects and from mother to child during pregnancy, birth or breastfeeding.
HIV is a retrovirus and detected by specific test methods. Detection of HIV by analysing p24 antigen and viral load is crucial. There are two types of HIV virus: HIV 1 is most common in sub-Saharan Africa and throughout the world and HIV 2 is most often found in West Central Africa, parts of Europe and India. Though, HIV 2 causes a slower progression of disease than HIV 1, both produce the same patterns of illness. The stages of HIV infections are: Category A, difficult to detect the infection without performing a blood test; Category B stage indicates failure of immune system; and Category C is synonymous to AIDS with appearance of opportunistic infections.

Treatment and Prevention of HIV

The knowledge of the intricate immune system and the complex life cycle of the HIV virus is used in development of treatments and vaccines for various diseases. The virus uses the translational machinery of the host cell making treatment a difficult process. Currently, no vaccine is available for HIV infection.
Antiretrovirals are anti-viral drugs that prevent the virus from replicating and slow the progress of the disease. Most common anti-HIV drugs block key steps in viral reproduction, such as, reverse transcriptase inhibitors or protease inhibitors. Unfortunately, there are the side effects of this treatment, for example protease inhibitors can cause nausea and diarrhea. A drug regime called Highly Active Antiretroviral Therapy (HAART) is a combination of different anti-HIV drugs taken at the same time targeting different aspects of the viral life cycle, prevents the ability of the virus to mutate and become resistant to the drugs. Liver, kidney, and pancreatic problems are long-term side effects of HAART. In-depth understanding of virus and immune response may help define new treatments. Many experimental HIV vaccines are being studied and developed worldwide by researchers.
AIDS commonly occurs in poverty ridden countries having poor healthcare infrastructure. Government is trying to implement strong and coordinated AIDS prevention programs in many countries. Educating public, creating awareness of the disease and its treatment is becoming important. Health authorities worldwide are promoting the use of condoms during sexual intercourse to prevent the spread of HIV. Social prevention strategies include sex education, sexual abstinence and understanding immigration regulation. Health advertising and social marketing campaigns are designed to educate people on the danger of HIV/AIDS and create awareness of prevention strategies.

Online Course in Tropical Medicine

James Lind Institute (JLI) provides an online program in Post Graduate Diploma in Clinical research helps in gaining knowledge in the area of clinical trials on HIV virus, development of innovative treatments and vaccines. JLI also provides online courses in maternal and child health and tropical medicine which provide a broad knowledge base for HIV prevention related public health field work in endemic areas.
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