What exactly is HIV?
Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV) is a virus with the full name Human Immunodeficiency Virus. If HIV is not treated, it can proceed to Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome, also known as AIDS. This signifies that the virus has the potential to harm the person’s immune system. Their body will eventually be unable to fight off infections or malignancies, and they may become severely ill.
How can one become infected with HIV?
While you may already be aware that HIV can be transferred through unprotected sex, HIV transmission can occur in a variety of ways. HIV is carried from person to person by blood and other body fluids such as sperm, vaginal secretions, and lactation.
According to Dr. Neilsen, “HIV is a bloodborne virus, which means it can be transferred through sexual activity without condoms, sharing injecting equipment, from mother to child during pregnancy, during delivery, or after delivery through breast milk.” In addition, in places of the world where blood is not tested, blood transfusions and blood products are used.”
When someone has HIV, they are said to be HIV positive. Nathan is 26 years old and has been HIV positive his entire life. He got HIV from his mother, who was HIV positive while pregnant with him.
“My mother got HIV first and then passed it on to my father,” Nathan explains. “They were both completely aware of it; my mother was quite ill at the time I was conceived.”
Who is infected with HIV?
Nathan does not fit the stereotype of an HIV patient that many people have in mind: he is a young, healthy-looking, heterosexual male. Dr. Neilsen believes it is critical for Queenslanders to understand that HIV can affect anyone.
“HIV can harm anyone in the community,” explains Dr. Neilsen. “HIV can infect people of any colour, sexual orientation, or economic background.”
Some individuals believe that HIV and AIDS only afflict homosexual and bisexual males. According to Dr. Neilsen, this idea is erroneous and might put many Queenslanders at danger, as heterosexual sex accounts for 25% of new HIV diagnoses in Australia.
“If anything, HIV has become less common in guys who have sex with guys in recent years. In Queensland, we’ve seen a little decrease in new infections among men having sex with males over the last five years, however heterosexual transmission has climbed significantly in recent years.
There is a widespread misconception among heterosexual people that HIV is a disease that affects persons other than themselves, which is untrue. If people have unprotected sex, whether straight or gay, they are at danger of contracting HIV.”
What is the treatment for HIV?
Antiretroviral therapy (ART) is used to treat HIV patients. ART prevents the virus from replicating and lowers the chance of developing AIDS.
While there is no cure for HIV, ART treatments are so efficient that if used correctly, they can render the virus undetectable in a person’s system. This means that HIV will not make the person ill, and they have almost no chance of transmitting HIV to others, including sexual partners.
These medications have transformed the way HIV is treated and radically altered the prognosis for those living with the virus. It’s the difference between needing to self-inject medicines and taking only a few tablets each day for Nathan.
“When I was approximately 16, I was on injectable medicine for around eight months. I was injecting the medications into my stomach twice a day and had to do it all myself. When compared to what I’m doing today, it’s a lot easier. Now I’m even discussing with my doctor the possibility of discontinuing pills and switching to a one- or two-tablet regimen.”
Dr. Neilsen has spent decades working with HIV patients. He recalls how bad the sickness was for his patients back in the 1980s.
“Over the last 20 years or so, there has truly been a shift in HIV treatment,” he says. “I worked in HIV in the 1980s, when things were dire. We had awful treatments, and people didn’t fare well with them. Nowadays, we can successfully treat and maintain people’s health eternally, sometimes with the use of a single tablet only once a day.”
It is predicted that with modern medicines, those infected with HIV will live normal, healthy lives and never get AIDS.