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HIV / AIDS

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Last updated: 15th Jan 2021

What is the difference between HIV and AIDS?

There are over 38 million people living with HIV/AIDS globally. HIV infection is caused by the human immunodeficiency virus, a retrovirus that is transmitted through bodily fluids.

HIV infection leads to a deterioration of T helper-cells, also known as CD4 cells, that are central to immune system function. If left untreated, HIV weakens the immune system, and progresses to AIDS (acquired immune deficiency syndrome), a disease state whereby patients are left susceptible to life-threatening infection and illnesses.

What are the antiretroviral treatments for HIV?

A large effort in the fight against HIV has focussed on HIV prevention strategies including protection during sex, regular HIV testing and pre-exposure prophylaxis (PrEP). For patients who have HIV, several antiretroviral therapies (ART), or combined ART (cART) are available. ART is typically made up of a combination of antiretroviral medicines given most often in the form of three-drug regimens, but also as two-drug regimens and four-drug regimens. Combining antiretroviral medicines with differing modes of action increases the chance for HIV viral suppression to undetectable levels. Maintaining an undetectable HIV viral load is important since patients cannot transmit HIV when in this state, and it reduces the risk for developing ART treatment resistance through HIV mutation. ART treatment adherence, as well as ART regime switching in virally suppressed patients, also serve to prevent ART resistance onset. Important strategies for monitoring ART treatment response and ART treatment resistance in HIV patients include regular assessments for HIV viral load, and CD4 lymphocyte counts.

Future of HIV treatment

HIV can now be managed as a chronic condition, and HIV treatment and prevention strategies, including HIV vaccines are continuously under investigation in clinical trials.

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