Posts tagged: HIV infection

The Dangers of Bacterial Resistance and AIDS

It seems like only yesterday that the AIDS pandemic first hit— arriving in a storm of panicked media exclusives and misinformation.  As with any communicable, life-threatening disease, the public’s first questions were inevitably ‘have I been exposed?’ or, even, ‘could I already have AIDS without knowing?’  In the beginning, there was little clear information on where the disease came from, or how it was spread—only the grim knowledge that people were dying.  The absurd—and often mocked—notion the illness could be contracted through a toilet seat or drinking fountain seemed very valid and real—and would only later be dispelled through many years of public education and AIDS literacy campaigns.

25 years later, World AIDS Day celebrated the anniversary of its founding in 1987—marking an important global milestone for AIDS research, awareness and fundraising.  The little red ribbon can be seen everywhere— from Vancouver to Helsinki— and AIDS is now a treatable disease with a vastly improved prognosis.  With modern retroviral therapy, many patients are living past the 20-year mark.  Of course, there’s still much to be done, especially in developing nations where these drugs are often not available—mostly due to financial or political concerns. Read more »

HIV Drug Resistance: Refusing to Leave Without Putting Up a Fight

Years of transferring lab results from test tubes and Petri dishes out onto the dismal playing field of worldwide HIV infection has finally given us a one-up on the disease. Series and series of refinement to antiretroviral therapy (ART) and better prevention programs has indicated nothing but a dwindling battle against the virus. But HIV is battling back. They are developing resistance to our meticulously-perfected drugs. Drug resistance is, as implied in the name, the ability of a virus to withstand the effects of a given antiretroviral drug attempting to prevent its replication; it will continue to replicate in the presence of the drug.

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The Fight Against HIV/AIDS and MTCT: A Decade On

When the United Nations General Assembly – Special Session (UNGASS) met in 2001 in New York, a target was set to reduce the number of HIV-infected infants by 50% by the year 2010. To achieve this plan, it was calculated that 80% of HIV pregnant women or mothers would have to be enrolled under a prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) program.

To see what an uphill task it was to undertake, we need to have a look at some figures:

  • Of the global HIV positive population, a little over 50% of them are women. At the end of 2010, there were an estimated 34 million people living with HIV, and that same year saw 2.7 million people newly infected with the disease.

  • While the HIV epidemic had peaked somewhere in between the years 1996 and 1997, in Eastern Europe and Central Asia the number of people living with HIV rose by a staggering 250% from 2001 to 2010. The hardest hit countries were the Russian Federation and Ukraine which accounted for almost 90% of the region’s epidemic.
  • Each day, an estimated 1000 children under the age of 15 are infected by the disease. And of these, more than 90% of them are infected due to mother-to-child transmission (MTCT) of HIV.

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Prevention of Mother-to-Child Transmission (PMTCT) and the Contraceptive Pill

Prevention of mother-to-child transmission (PMTCT) of HIV/AIDS is the process of making sure that a child born to an HIV positive mother isn’t born with the disease too. And if most people in Sub-Saharan Africa were to be asked how it can be prevented, they would more likely than not answer that prevention is better than the cure – the mother should try to not get pregnant in the first place. While there are many moral issues that could be brought against this idea, some mothers would agree that they too thought so and were using contraceptives to prevent the pregnancy from happening.

And yet, according to a study, it has been found that taking contraceptive pills has actually been the linked to an increase risk of HIV infection among women of reproductive age1. In Africa, where HIV/AIDS is the most prevalent, population control programs have been in place for over three decades in which time women were encouraged to use oral contraceptive pills and hormonal injection contraceptives like Depo-Provera. Research has shown that this has been found to increase not only a woman’s risk of transmitting the disease, but also that of being infected. This has come as quite a shock to the estimated 140 million users of hormonal contraceptives worldwide. Read more »

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