HIV/AIDS has impacted millions of people worldwide. Recent decades have seen dramatic developments with regard to understanding the virus and disease progression, with medical breakthroughs helping to increase options to pursue preventative testing, provide early treatment and address late symptoms.
In today’s blog post, we review a brief history of HIV/AIDS: What it is; what research and developments have occurred, and what research is in motion today. Through it, you’ll see how pharmaceutical breakthroughs have provided critical information and treatment options, preventing more serious diagnoses and saving lives around the world.
Before we can talk about what’s being done to help HIV/AIDS patients, let’s first explain what it is.
Human immunodeficiency virus (HIV) is a virus that can be transmitted by various bodily fluids. When HIV-positive people are not aware that they are infected, the spread of HIV can occur easily between family members and partners.
For many individuals, HIV can cause an HIV infection and acquired immunodeficiency syndrome (AIDS).
HIVAIDS: human immunodeficiency virus infection and acquired immune deficiency syndrome.
As the HIV infection progresses and the immune system is weakened, patients are put at risk for common and debilitating infections and ctumors. AIDS indicates the late stages of the HIV infection, in which the most debilitating symptoms occur.
AIDS, not to be named until 1982, was first reviewed by the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in 1981, as patients around the United States were reported to have the unknown disease and deaths began to occur at a rapid pace.
It was in 1984 that Dr. Robert Gallo discovered HIV as the cause of AIDS.
A tremendous amount of research and progress has been made since we first became aware of HIV/AIDS in the 1980s. While there is currently no cure for HIV/AIDS, treatments are now available to help slow the progression of the disease and substantially increase life expectancy of individuals at various stages of diagnosis. Medications are now available, and multiple medications are typically used simultaneously to lessen the disease’s ability to advance.
There are also anti-retrovirals available for HIV-positive individuals to take to reduce the risk of transmitting the HIV virus to their partners, and for HIV-positive pregnant women to reduce the risk of transmission to their children pre- and post-delivery.
Since anti-retroviral treatments (ART) were approved in 1995, HIV/AIDS-related deaths in the United States have dropped by 83 percent (source)
Through this progress, HIV/AIDS can be managed as a chronic disease rather than labeled as a fatal diagnosis.
Right now, there are more than 40 medications and vaccines in development to prevent and treat HIV/AIDS. These research efforts aim to achieve goals such as: preventing HIV from breaking through the cell membrane, a key part of its progression; modifying patient’s cells to make them resistant to HIV; and vaccines that help to support the immune system in protecting against viral infections.
While these treatments are being researched, you can help your community stay healthy and get the treatment they need by raising awareness of how HIV is transmitted, and how to get tested.
Right now, 1 in 8 people living with HIV in the United States are unaware of their infection. More frequent testing can help lead to earlier diagnoses and treatment!
Looking for a good time to raise awareness? Consider joining the efforts of one of these upcoming HIV/AIDS awareness days!