by ‘Ifreke Inyang
The first case of AIDS was recorded in 1981. The discovery was made by the U. S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention and its cause, HIV, was identified in the early 1980s. Since then, more people across the world were known to be infected with the virus. The epidemic has claimed nearly 30 million lives across the globe. Genetic research speculates that HIV originated in West-central Africa during the late nineteenth or early twentieth century.
There is no confirmed cure yet, but there are ways the disease can be managed.
For many years, HIV/AIDS was regarded as the death sentence for those who engaged in homosexuality, as the earliest cases involved gay people. But over the years, it has been consistently proven that the disease cannot be linked to sexuality, race or age. A lot of people around the world, including celebrities have died from AIDS-related illnesses. The issue of stigma is still being dealt with, but HIV/AIDS has been demystified to some extent, as death doesn’t readily come to mind as soon as someone tests positive these days.
There is no confirmed cure yet, but there are ways the disease can be managed. One of such is the highly active antiretroviral therapy (HAART). The treatment was introduced in 1996, and since then it has been immensely valuable to a lot of HIV-infected people. HAART is based on the protease inhibitor and consists of combinations or cocktails of three drugs which belong to at least two classes of antiretroviral agents. HAART essentially helps to improve the quality of the patient’s life, reduce the complications and the HIV viremia below the level of detection. However, one thing the doctors will always emphasise is that, it does not cure the patient of HIV. It doesn’t also prevent the virus from coming back once the treatment is stopped. In fact, it would take more than a lifetime of an individual to be cleared of the infection using HAART.
Having said this, many people living with HIV have experienced an encouraging improvement in their health while on HAART. This is reflected in the remarkable decrease in HIV-associated deaths. A HIV positive person who is not taking HAART will have full blown AIDS in another nine to ten years, and the median survival time after this is about 9.2 months. HAART is thought to boost survival time by 4 to 12 years.
The results vary with other people. For some others, HAART might not be this effective due to medication intolerance/side effects, prior antiretroviral therapy and infection with a drug-resistant strain of HIV. In other words, a strict adherence to the treatment is what guarantees optimal results. The regiments are hard to follow though, as there are usually a large number of pills to be taken regularly.
The more popular challenge is that anti-retroviral drugs are expensive. A reasonable percentage of people living with the virus do not earn enough to afford these medications. However, the costs of these treatments have been subsidiesd by the government in low-income countries.
An alternative to HAART is Complementary and Alternative Medicine, CAM. About 60% of HIV carriers in the US alone use various forms of CAM though a 2005 Cochrane review of existing high-quality scientific evidence concluded that there was insufficient evidence to support the use of herbal medicines in HIV-infected individuals and AIDS patients. CAM is diet-based.
Taking some vitamin and mineral supplements has been shown to be beneficial from research. For instance, if selenium is taken daily, it can suppress HIV viral burden and improve the CD4 count. There is also some evidence that vitamin A supplementation especially in children reduces mortality rate. The World Health Organisation recommends a dietary intake of micronutrients at RDA levels by HIV-infected adults.