During the 1980s, HIV posed a threat to the U.S. population. By the 1990s, HIV was recognized as a dangerous medical condition around the globe. During this time, HIV was compared to other lethal diseases such as the bubonic plague and smallpox. HIV has been constantly linked to many regions of the world such as the United States, and Africa.
HIV, formally known as Human Immunodeficiency Virus, is a sexually transmitted virus which attacks the immune system in the human body. The disease lowers the immune system’s resistance to infections and other maladies. HIV is usually transmitted “by contact with infected blood or needles, from mother to child during pregnancy, childbirth, or breastfeeding.”
Patients usually develop flu-like illness after two months of contracting the virus. Common symptoms include fever, rash, headache, muscle soreness, sore throat, mouth or genital ulcers, swollen lymph glands, joint pain, night sweats, and diarrhea. These symptoms can take years to manifest. If not treated properly or diagnosed before further development, HIV can develop into AIDS, or the immunodeficiency virus’ most malignant and terminal form. HIV has no known cure. However, medical professionals have provided HIV patients with medications which control the development of the disease.
Healthcare professionals are working to find a cure for this degenerative disease. Most drugs have to be used in combination in order to work. According to the Mayo Clinic Staff, “HIV patients have to combine two to three drugs from two different classes to avoid creating strains of HIV that are immune to single drugs.” Healthcare professionals often recommend that you start treatment if you have severe symptoms, your CD4 count is under 500, you’re pregnant, you have HIV-related kidney disease or you are being treated for hepatitis B. However, drugs only pose a temporary solution. These drugs are a lifetime commitment and produce severe side effects. These side effects can have lasting impacts on patients. Side effects include:
- Abnormal heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Skin rash
- Weakened bones
- Bone death (particularly hip joint pain)
- Loss of appetite
- Other side effects that appear can be life threatening.
- Side effects also vary
However, earlier this month medical professionals reported that a Canadian HIV vaccine has made it through the first round of clinical testing. Test participants have shown little to no adverse side effects. The medical team is led by Dr. Chil-Yong Yang from Canada’s Sulrich School of Medicine and Dentistry at Western University. The team has also partnered up with Sumagen Canada, a biotech company. The test drug is the only one going through a clinical trial.
This new vaccine is “a modified version of the HIV virus that has essentially been killed but is intended to attack HIV infected cells.” Researchers are hopeful for its potential success. If the drug were to succeed, it would revolutionize medicine. People with HIV/AIDS around the globe would have a cure, and a chance to live a better, healthier life.
– Stephanie Olaya
Sources: Office of Women’s Health; US Department of Health Services, Al Jazeera, Mayo Clinic, Aids.gov