- Feb 9, 2013
Here is the info from the old thread:
I'm going to work on this & making sure everything is up to date, post links to what the disease is, etc.*What is AIDS / HIV?*
AIDS means ‘Acquired Immune Deficiency Syndrome’. It is caused by a retrovirus, the Human Immunodeficiency Virus (HIV), which basically affects your immune system (the body’s defence mechanism). This is the transmittable aspect – you can catch HIV from other people. It does not necessarily lead to full-blown AIDS – lots of people live with HIV but do not contract AIDS for years. However, being HIV positive means that you are much more susceptible to all the minor bacteria, fungi, parasites & viruses that we encounter during life. HIV leaves your body unable to defend itself from these various threats, and thus a common cold can be life-threatening to an HIV sufferer. These are known as ‘opportunistic infections’. There is no cure for AIDS – however, various drugs can reduce the damage to your immune system that HIV causes. Early diagnosis and treatment (even though most HIV sufferers remain asymptomatic for 10 years) can help extend a person’s life.
The HIV virus lives and breeds mostly in the white blood cells, which are responsible for fighting disease. HIV infection usually manifests itself in a reduction of CD4 (or ‘T-helper’) immune cells; as the virus grows it destroys these cells & uses their energy & nutrients to reproduce. The US. Center for Disease Control classifies someone as positive for AIDS when they have had an opportunistic infection, or when the number of CD4 cells has dropped to below 200 per cubic millilitre of blood – a healthy person has from 450 – 1200 CD4 cells per cubic ml. This process is known as a T-cell count.
AIDS is fast becoming one of the most frightening pandemic diseases the human race has encountered. Although it has not yet claimed anywhere near the number of victims that the Black Plague, Typhoid or Malaria have, it is a relatively ‘new’ virus and it is spreading like wildfire. In parts of Africa two thirds of the adult population are infected with HIV. The Joint United Nations HIV/AIDS Programme (UNAIDS) estimates that there are 34 million people infected worldwide; for the benefit of the (mostly) American bluelight community, here are a few sobering facts about HIV in the USA:
- 40,000 people are infected with HIV every year in America. That’s two people every hour of every day in the states alone.
- 1 out of every 250 Americans is HIV positive. half of those carrying the virus have not been tested & do not know about it .
- 430,000 people have been killed by AIDS in the US alone – around 20 million have died worldwide, although obviously these figures are a vast understatement, as many countries lack the medical / demographic abilities to record the actual number of deaths caused by HIV.
HIV is transmitted through the direct contact between an infected party’s bodily fluids (such as blood, semen, vaginal secretions and breast milk) and the bloodstream of another person. This can
occur as a result of:
- unprotected sex (anal or vaginal). This is a high-risk activity, especially anal sex. Women are more susceptible to catching HIV from vaginal sex than men.
- Unprotected oral sex. This is less of a risk than penetrative sex, but there is still a chance of transmitting / catching the disease, particularly if a) ejaculation occurs or b) the giver / receiver has poor oral hygiene.
- Sharing needles or syringes. This means all types of syringe – whether it is used for administering steroids, smack, blood tests or body piercings. infectious HIV can survive for up to a month in used syringes . I would like to paraphrase PhreeX’s words of wisdom – “there is only one type of rig, that is a clean, packaged, sterilised rig”.
- Infection during pregnancy, childbirth or breastfeeding. The American Foundation for AIDS Research recommends that any woman who is pregnant or planning to become so should be tested for HIV. If the virus is found in the mother, then preventative drugs and guidance to avoid breast-feeding can dramatically reduce the chance of HIV passing to the unborn child.
HIV is not transmitted through food or air. It is present in saliva, vomit, feces, sweat and tears – however chances of transmission via these mediums is very unlikely. The AMFAR says: “There has never been a case where a person was infected by a household member, relative, co-worker, or friend through casual or everyday contact such as sharing eating utensils and bathroom facilities or hugging and kissing”. Interestingly, having had a sexually transmitted disease does increase your chances of contracting HIV. Individuals who are HIV positive and contract another STD are 3 to 5 times more likely to transmit the virus. So overall, safe sex is really important. It’s also important to realise that AIDS does not discriminate; everyone is at risk, and your lifestyle choices are the only real steps towards prevention that you can take. Women are four times more likely to contract HIV through vaginal sex than men, so girls – ALWAYS insist on being protected. It’s not worth the risk.
Most people are aware of the various means by which AIDS can be contracted, and the methods we can use to prevent infection. Condoms, dental dams, clean needles, and if you’re going to use a lube, make it a water-based one since oil or petroleum based lubes (e.g. Vaseline) render condoms useless. Just use your head, be safe, and always think of the possible consequences of unprotected sex. Remember that people can carry HIV for decades before showing any symptoms, so just be extra careful. For IV drug users, the CDC has a relevant page on minimising the risk - http://www.cdc.gov/idu/pubs/hiv_prev.htm
*there is hope*
HIV / AIDS sufferers who live in developed countries do have access to a number of drugs that can slow the destructive effects of infection. Some drugs are intended to deal with the opportunistic infections that kill so many HIV sufferers, whilst others are designed to prevent the virus from reproducing and damaging the immune system. The latter fall under two categories:
- Reverse transcriptase inhibitors. These effectively attack an enzyme found in HIV called reverse transcriptase. Abacavir, delavirdine, didanosine (ddI), efavirenz, lamivudine (3TC), nevirapine, stavudine (d4T), zalcitabine (ddC), and zidovudine (AZT) are all reverse transcriptase inhibitors.
- Protease inhibitors are designed to specifically target the HIV enzyme protease. This group of anti-retroviral medicines include amprenavir, indinavir, nelfinavir, ritonavir, and saquinavir.
Those HIV sufferers who are in rich Western countries & who can afford treatment are often prescribed a combination of several of these drugs, in a system known as HAART or highly active antiretroviral therapy. This can be successful in terms of improving the CD4 cell count and reducing the amounts of HIV in the blood. There is a lot of heavily funded scientific research in the HIV/AIDS sector, and around the world people are working on ways of treating, and perhaps most importantly, preventing the transmission of HIV.
However, HIV/AIDS remains a life-threatening illness for the majority of sufferers. Many people do not respond to the various drugs; antiretroviral drugs are often highly toxic, and most worryingly HIV mutates constantly. In 40% of people undergoing HAART the virus mutates to a highly drug-resistant strain.
*what about me?*
even if you look & feel perfectly healthy, you may be infected with HIV. Some of those infected develop mild flu-like symptoms, or persistent swollen glands. The only way to know for sure is to get tested! This is important because a) the earlier you are diagnosed, the better the chances for effective treatment, b) you will be able to take all the right steps to avoid infecting others and c) if you are pregnant, you can dramatically reduce the risk of infecting your child. Bluelighters, please take precautions and please take it seriously as HIV really can happen to you. Below are some resources – first phone lines, then a list of websites - that I found particularly useful / informative. There is a focus on UK, US and Aussie resources as the vast majority of bluelight traffic comes from these regions. Please feel free to add anything you feel might help others.
The USA Center for Disease Control’s AIDS hotline is 1-800-342-2437.
The UK national AIDS helpline is 0800 567 123, there is an ethnic languages service available on 0800 917 2227.
The definitive list of Australian AIDS organisations can be found at http://www.medicalonline.com.au/medi.../resources.htm - there are toll-free numbers included in the list.
(404) 872-0600 www.aidatianta.org
AIDS Project Los Angeles (323) 993-1500 www.apia.org
Gay City, Seattle (206) 860-6969 www.gaycity.org
Gay Life, San Francisco AIDS Foundation
(415) 788-LIFE www.gaylife.org
Gay Men's Health Crisis New York City
(212) 367-1000 www.gmhc.org
National AIDS Hotline
English: (800) 342-2437 Spanish: (800) 344-7432
Stop AIDS Project, San Francisco
(415) 575-0150 www.stopaids.org
Australian Federation of AIDS Organizations (2) 221 2955
Eire (AIDS Helpline, Dublin) (1) 872 4277
France (AIDS Ftdtration Nationale)
(1) 53 26 26 26
Germany (Deutsche AIDS-HILFE) (30) 69 00 87-42
Dutch HIV Association (20) 685 0055
(20) 662 4206
Terence Higgins Trust Helpline 0171 242 1010
UK National AIDS Helpline 0800 567 123
National AIDS Helpline (Northern Ireland) 0800 137 437
http://www.kitsch.freeserve.co.uk/support/hiv.htm - excellent list of various support organisations.
http://www.nat.org.uk/ - uk’s leading AIDS advocacy organisation.
http://www.tht.org.uk/ - the terrence Higgins trust.
By far the most comprehensive coverage of all the issues surrounding HIV/AIDS can be found at
the body.com - this site is a superb collection of resources, references & support networks and there is so much information available.