A person infected with HIV is able to transmit the virus to others at any time, as it is impossible to totally rid the body of the virus. There is currently no cure for HIV. Drugs used to treat HIV may be able to decrease the number of the virus by 99.9%, but they are unable to get rid of it completely. Even though it is less likely, with a low number of the virus it is still possible to transmit HIV to others. For this reason, those already infected with HIV should take measures to prevent spreading the disease to others (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 3).
Individuals infected with HIV should follow all prevention measures listed above. These individuals should also notify anyone they may have exposed to HIV. This way, anyone who may have been exposed to HIV can get tested for it. Notifying those who may have been exposed is a very important moral obligation. Also, in some states, it is a legal obligation. Notification can be done by the HIV infected person or by public health authorities. Public health authorities will contact those who may have been infected while keeping the individual infected with HIV anonymous (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 14).
Prevention of HIV in Developing Countries
As mentioned earlier, developing countries have the highest number of HIV infected people. Generally, these countries utilize small, localized efforts to educate the population about HIV and AIDS prevention. Unfortunately, these efforts are not large enough to reach everyone. Instead, mass media such as television and radio should be used in an effort to educate the public in developing countries about HIV. Mass media information and education programs can improve knowledge and awareness of HIV. Misconceptions are also reduced through these programs. Most importantly, these programs have been shown to promote safer sexual behavior (Gibney, DiClemente, and Vermund 334).
HIV Prevention Education for Adolescents (Industrialized Nations)
Education programs that work well with adolescents are not based on abstinence only. Instead, they focus on safe sexual practices. Contrary to popular belief, these programs do not encourage adolescents to have sex. In fact, these programs have been proven to delay the age of first coitus. Teaching adolescents safe sexual practices is important, as it may prevent them from falling into a habit of risky sexual behaviors. Schools and colleges are the most appropriate place to implement these programs, as this is where the largest concentration of adolescents and young adults is to be found (Gibney, DiClemente, and Vermund 161).
HIV Prevention Education for Homosexual Males (Industrialized Nations)
Because the majority of AIDS cases are found in homosexual men, this is an especially important group to educate in the prevention of transmitting HIV. Men who frequent gay bars have been found to be even more likely to engage in particularly risky sexual activities. The best way to reach out to this group is to use trained spokesmen to visit gay bars to communicate HIV risk reduction information and endorse safer sex behaviors. This method of prevention has been proven to decrease unprotected anal sex and increased condom use in gay men (Gibney, DiClemente, and Vermund 165).
HIV Prevention Education for Female Commercial Sex Workers (Industrialized Nations)
Commercial sex workers have an unusually high risk of contracting HIV because of the nature of their work. Government-run programs have had some success in educating commercial sex workers about HIV and risk behaviors related to the virus. Clinic drop-in centers that provide medical and health services, HIV testing and counseling, STD treatment, a needle and syringe exchange program, and condoms are effective in educating commercial sex workers. These programs were effective in addressing injecting drug use behavior and condom use with clients (Gibney, DiClemente, and Vermund169).
HIV Prevention for Intravenous Drug Users
Intravenous drug users present a special problem as they may transmit HIV through both drug use and sexual activity. The most effective prevention method of HIV in intravenous drug users is syringe exchange. Programs for exchanging needles and syringes in the United States are very controversial; however, these programs offer the most effective means of controlling the transmission of HIV through needle sharing. Also, drug use does not appear to increase in the presence of syringe exchange programs (Gibney, DiClemente, and Vermund 170).
Treatment of HIV
Without treatment of HIV, the disease is likely to lead to AIDS and soon thereafter, death. On the other hand, the prognosis with treatment is relatively good. In fact, with treatment, usually ninety-nine percent of the virus is eliminated from the body in about a month. Even when doing well with treatment, people infected with HIV should seek regular medical care, which usually includes a medical evaluation every three or four months (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 67).
Tests for resistance can help a physician to determine which types of drugs are resistant to each individual's specific strain of HIV. Other tests one might expect during medical visits are kidney and liver function, a blood test for syphilis, a complete blood count, and a test for the hepatitis virus. The complete blood count will measure the number of red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Each of these is at risk for being low because of HIV itself, complications related to HIV, or various drugs used to treat HIV (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 71).
Drugs used to fight HIV are called antiviral or antiretroviral drugs. AZT was the first drug approved by the FDA for treatment of HIV infection. AZT worked for a short time, but then HIV became resistant to the drug. HIV multiplies and mutates, which changes its genetic structure. Because of this, it became difficult to create a drug to treat HIV. Several other drugs were later approved by the FDA to treat HIV. Soon thereafter, it was discovered that the best way to fight HIV was to combine drugs, which is called combination therapy. Combination therapy entails giving patients two or more drugs so that the mutations required of the virus are not just a few, but many. The best treatment of HIV requires a combination of three drugs, or triple therapy (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 74).
With modern drugs, HIV can almost be completely suppressed. Suppression of HIV provides the following benefits: HIV mutations are limited, the virus numbers are low, the complications of HIV are reduced or eliminated completely, patients live longer, the death rate due to AIDS declined, and amazing recoveries are quite common. Since there is currently no cure for HIV, eradicating the virus completely is impossible. Therefore, the goal of therapy is to limit the virus numbers as much as possible. There are now fifteen drugs, given three at a time, that are used in the treatment of HIV. The best outcome for a patient is "no detectable virus." This means that the virus cannot be found during routing laboratory tests. Not all patients get this result, but most people do well even when HIV is somewhat suppressed. Results can only be maintained while on medication, so HIV patients must continue treatment for the foreseeable future. Also, these drugs must be taken accurately every day (Bartlett and Finkbeiner 75).
Myths Concerning HIV common myth concerning HIV is that HIV can be cured. The truth is that currently no cure or vaccines exist to prevent of cure HIV. Another wide-spread myth is that HIV can only be contracted by homosexual people. This is simply not true, as everyone is susceptible to HIV. In fact, worldwide, the most common way HIV is transmitted is through heterosexual contact. A different myth about contraction of HIV is that oral sex does not put a person at risk for contracting HIV. Oral sex does involve bodily fluids (semen and women's vaginal excrements) which contain the HIV virus, so unprotected oral sex does put one at risk for contracting HIV. Any type of sexual contact (oral, vaginal, and anal) can result in the possibility of transmission of the HIV virus. Another popular myth is that one can tell if a person has HIV by they way the person looks. HIV symptoms may not show up for several years, so a healthy-looking person could unknowingly be infected with HIV. This period of time where an HIV infected person shows no symptoms of the disease is called the asymptomatic period. The only sure way to know if a person has HIV is to get tested. Some women believe that using birth control methods such as diaphragms, cervical caps, sponges, spermicides, DeproProvera, Norplant, or the pill will prevent them from contracting HIV. This too is a myth. These birth control methods do help to prevent pregnancy, but none of them prevent any sexually transmitted diseases including HIV. However, a condom can be used in combination with these birth control methods. The condom does help to prevent the transmission of HIV. In addition to these, there are many other myths about HIV that continue to circulate. For this reason, everyone needs to educate themselves and others about the realities of…