HIV is a virus which is usually spread by penetrative sexual intercourse but can also be transmitted by IV drug use and following mother to child transmission. Having attacked the immune system for several years after infection, during which time the patient is relatively symptom-free, HIV allows for unusual and devastating infections to occur as the immune response is eventually exhausted, leading to the Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome or AIDS.
One of the criticisms of the original 1987 ‘Don’t Die of Ignorance’ AIDS campaign was that it suggested a heterosexual epidemic which seemingly did not occur in the West. Recently 60% of all new infections in Eastern Europe have occurred by heterosexual transmission, however. Of particular concern is the increase in the number of individuals who are diagnosed very late, when they have already suffered an AIDS related illness: in Eastern Europe an increase of 113% over 6 years has been reported, compared with a decrease of 48% in Western Europe.
Increased HIV precautions, HIV testing and the use of Antiretroviral therapy (the treatment for HIV) is advocated by the WHO, by which they hope to reduce the number of new HIV diagnoses in Europe, that currently stands at over 130,000 annually.
Written by Dr Simon Worrell BSc MBBS MRCP, Head of Medical Communications, Healix International.
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